I’m Not A Hokie; my experience at Virginia Tech

I am not a Hokie

But after my experiences here the past few days, I understand those who are proud to be one. Virginia Tech is not just a school; it is a way of life.

The best thing about this school is it unflinching, unwavering spirit.

School spirit, human spirit and everyone’s spirit.

Since this university is a football school, I offer a way to really never forget your fallen students and teachers.

Retire the number 32 for all sports teams.

Hang a jersey from each respective sports area of play, be it field, gym, or park, and display it with the same pride shown this past week. What better way to remember them than have the memory of those lost on Monday, April 16th permanently active in every home sporting event from here on out.

Remember their lives not just in pictures, memories and in your hearts, but on the field, every down and in the huddle every game.

Sometimes you just have to write your own history.

I am not a Hokie

But after what I have seen this week, I sure want to be.

David Flannery – The Orion, California State University Chico.

This was a letter to the Editor/Column I wrote for the Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech‘s Newspaper.

These are just a few of the people/things/events I saw at VT.



During the weekend, a local group wanted everyone who came to leave their mark. They chose the name, “Hands that Heal” and gathered 1500 plus people hand prints, including my own. I chose green.


This lady, Annette Peck, an Alum from 88′, came with her family to give support and pay respects.


Her two children flank her as she decides where to put her print.


John Baldwin, a native of Blaskburg VA, created Hands that Heal in order to visually show the kindness of strangers. His hands were quite colorful.


The group set up in front of the World War II Memorial on the drill yard.


A lady at the War Memorial.


War Memorial from the front.  All the names of VT students/alums that died for their country are displayed here.




Names of the departed on a message board.


Part of the makeshift memorial.


People became quite emotional at this memorial. 32 stones were placed in a semi-circle around the lawn. At each of these stones, personal items, pictures, flowers, poems, clothes, flags and many other things were placed to identify and honor the victims.


On Monday, April 23rd, there was a ceremony to honor the memory of the 32 victims. Students carrying white balloons stood at each respective persons memorial stone. The School Bell, was rung once for a long moment of silence, and then 32 times for each of the victims. The bell was not rung for the killer, contrary to some broadcast media reports.


The balloons were released, and so were people’s emotions. I tried to be as respectful as I could.


He found it too hard to look at the ceremony, and grieved privately.

On another note, we were able to interview an American Icon, Nikki Giovanni, Poet Laureate of Virginia Tech.


Her poem, “We Are Virginia Tech”, became the rallying point for the school.

Here is an excerpt:

“We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.”


Her knowledge and vocab are incredible. She could also relate things to us that we wouldn’t normally understand.


I loved that she had posters of Tupac and Prince. I overheard her say that Tupac was the true embodiment of MLK Jr’s message for our current times. I didn’t have the time to ask her about that one.


When we asked about teaching the killer, Cho, she froze up and because of legal reasons, could not talk about it.


I’m glad to have met her, she kind of put the whole thing into perspective for me.


We also followed a tour around the school. Even after the tragedy, high school students were coming to see the campus. On our tour, not one person asked about the massacre.


Students prayed in a circle outside of West Ambler Johnston Hall, where Cho, started his killing spree on the 4th floor, murdering two VT students.




Filed under April 16 2007, black and white photography, Cal State Chico, Chico, College Shootings, Collegiate Times, CT, Dorms, General, Hokies, long exposure, Night, People, photography, Photos, Residence Hall, Street People, street photography, The Orion, travel photography, Virginia, Virginia Tech, VT, West Ambler Johnston Hall

5 responses to “I’m Not A Hokie; my experience at Virginia Tech

  1. Jim

    As a graduate of Blacksburg High School and Virginia Tech … as a friend of some of those involved in the tragedy of April 16, thanks for sharing your pictures and your experience. Blacksburg is my home and a wonderful place.

    This will not define us; but, we can never forget what happened there.

    Thanks again,

    Ut Prosim

  2. I loved that you noticed the Tupac and Prince posters. You made me wish that I knew her. She exudes wisdom and you captured that perfectly.

    I wasted so much time going through your archives (not so much a waste really).

    Most excellent work.

  3. Thank you for your sharing your experiences. Alumni have created a website http://www.retire32.com. Please support.

  4. Ricky Castles

    Thanks for these pictures and your recollections of April 16th. I have a few corrections to your captions, however. Cho did kill the first two victims on the 4th floor of West Ambler Johnston, but he did not reside there; he lived in Harper Hall. Also, it is simply the “War Memoial”, not the WWII memorial as the names of all VT alums killed in battle are carved there from the World Wars through modern day.

  5. Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it tough to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thank you

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