I started writing this by reliving my day 5 years ago, but while the feelings and horror of that day are something I will never forget, I do not want to dwell on the evils we all faced, but instead on the people we lost, and my fond memories of times spent with them and what I have learned from this loss over the past 5 years,
Ryan Christopher "Stack" Clark and Michael Steven Pohle Jr. were friends of mine from Virginia Tech. They were both killed in the shooting on April 16th 2007. Their initials now adorn a banner carried by sparrows between Hokie footprints along my left calf.
Stack was a triple major, played in the band, was a resident advisor and an active member of our Circle K club. One of my favorite memories was him and another friend of ours walking between classes together- we all had Molecular Biology together, and then we all had separate classes in the Chem/Physics building afterwards. Wed gossip about relationships, people we saw walking around campus, wed talk about the upcoming/just finished tests from class or about community service projects we were looking forward to. Stack had an infectious laugh, and I can't remember a time when I spent time with him that I wasn't smiling and laughing. Like the time he helped my former roommate iron her pants- She was still wearing them and he stuck the mini ironing board up the pants leg.
Mike was a kind man. Despite the nature of going to a class we all hated, he never failed to say hello to each of us in the group that sat together- in that very same Molecular Biology class I had with Stack. We would talk and make jokes over AIM- about people in class, about the class itself and about the teacher. Ive never really admitted this, but he had a crush on me for awhile as well. He admitted it to me one afternoon when we were chatting online, nothing ever came of it, but I often thought of him afterwards. He loved sports as well. Played Lacrosse for a club team at Tech, and everyone who knew him seemed to like an respect him greatly for the way he treated people on and off the field.
I have heard many great stories about the other lives we lost that day. Although I don't know how much more loss I could have dealt with, sometimes I wish I could have known more of these bright minds that were taken from us.
What I have learned in the past five years, especially considering the events of my robbery, is that we need to face the dark time, we need to think about them- with sorrow and fear, but also with hope and optimism. Ryan and Mike have taught me kindness, courage, dedication, friendship, and charity amongst many other admirable qualities. The Hokie community now lives for the 32 lives we lost that day, we more gallantly support each other because we know what it is to lose- our friends, our families, and our sense of peace and safety. But these terrible acts can never make us lose ourselves, can never cut us off from one another, from love, from community.
We Are Virginia Tech. We will Prevail. We live for 32 and We will neVer forgeT.