A teary-eyed girl stood in front of a packed crowd wearing orange T-shirts. The audience watched silently while the girl, at first choked up, finally managed to speak.
“I’m a Virginia Tech Hokie,” she said. “And it really does matter that you’re here.”
This was the scene during an open-mic session Thursday night when a vigil took place at the University Student Commons to mourn the deaths of 32 Tech students and faculty.
SGA member Megan Shandelson, emcee of the event, said similar vigils were held simultaneously across the state and country to honor those who had been killed.
The vigils were organized by political group Virginia21 to show solidarity in times of grief. According to the group’s Web site, more than 20 vigils were held.
“We’re not here tonight for each other,” Shandelson said. “We’re here tonight for the people of Virginia Tech.”
Guest speaker Napoleon Peoples, director of Virginia Ccommonwealth University’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, said the key to moving on from such an event is faith.
“We are all human beings struggling to become all we are going to become,” Peoples said. “As we search for answers, we should pool together.”
Peoples said he was at Kentucky State University when four people were shot and killed in a similar event.
“No one thought an event like this could happen at our campus, but it did,” Peoples said. “I don’t and won’t have an answer.”
The only thing we can do, Peoples said, is learn from the Tech tragedy and create change where change is needed.
As an additional show of support, Shandelson encouraged students to write personal notes on signs stating “VCU (heart) Tech.” Photographs of the signs held in front of the packed audience are going to be sent alongside the signs themselves to Tech’s campus in Blacksburg, Shandelson said.
High school student Aaron Todd performed on the bagpipes before and after the ceremony, and Cecelia Thomas, vice president of the Black Awakening Choir, performed a capella in lieu of a performance by the entire choir.
Choir president Alonzo Brooks said the choir sends messages of faith to the Tech community during times of tragedy.
“As we sing God’s praises,” Brooks said, “We recognize things are not always going to go the way we want them to.”