BLACKSBURG, VA. — Thousands of students, faculty, staff and others filled Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum and thousands more gathered outside in Lane Stadium on Tuesday afternoon to recognize 32 people who were killed by a single shooter Monday at the campus.
President Bush, Gov. Tim Kaine, Tech President Charles W. Steger and author Nikki Giovanni attended the ceremony and expressed their support and encouragement to victims’ families and the university community.
“Even in the midst of the darkest day in the history of this campus, what you showed to the world yesterday, you students was an amazing thing,” Kaine said. “This is a remarkable place. Do not let hold of that sense of community which is so powerful in this room.”
Students, some accompanied by their parents, stayed in line waiting for the coliseum doors to open. State troopers directed traffic, while journalists and camera people asked students and their families for their initial responses.
Students, faculty and staff were still in shock.
Sophomore Matt Bradley said the early morning shootings came as a surprise.
“I didn’t believe it,” Bradley said. “I thought it was a rumor, but the more people started to talk about it, the more serious it got.”
Bradley, a music major at Tech, said he was good friends with one of the first shooting victims, Ryan Clark. Known to his friends as “Stack,” Clark was a resident assistant in Amber Johnston Hall and a fellow member of Tech’s marching band.
Clark and Bradley shared a room together at the ACC tournament earlier this school year.
Bradley and the rest of the marching band wore their band uniforms to the convocation in honor of their fallen friend.
Safety has never been an issue for Bradley.
“I was 100 percent safe, and today, I still feel 100 percent safe,” Bradley said. “I don’t feel what happened is representative of the community or the students at Tech.”
Mike Barnes, a dairy sciences professor, was also on campus Monday.
At 9:30 a.m., “I was teaching class,” Barnes said.
While he didn’t hear the gunshots, and none of his students knew what was happening, Barnes said he eventually was alarmed by sirens.
Barnes said the response by Steger and Tech police is easy to double-guess in retrospect, but he does have his criticisms.
“As soon as they found out two people were shot at 7:15, they should have cut classes. That should be policy; no other decisions needed to be made,” Barnes said. “It’s ridiculous that people went to class two hours later.”