On Monday night, Ben Lansing, a Virginia illustrator and graduate of the University of Richmond, posted a black-and-white cartoon on Virginia Tech’s MySpace page. It’s a modest, one-panel affair, showing the mascots of some of VT’s in-state rivals — the University of Virginia Cavalier, the Virginia Commonwealth University Ram — embracing the fallen Virginia Tech Hokie. Underneath, the caption simply states: “Today, we are all Hokies.”
It’s a sentiment being echoed around the world, but perhaps nowhere louder than on college campuses across the U.S., as students pull together in shows of solidarity and support for their VT brethren (see “Virginia Tech Gunman Was 23-Year-Old Student, ’A Loner’ “ ). It’s a kinship forged by tragedy; an uncommon, unbreakable bond that less than 24 hours ago didn’t even exist, yet one that still compels complete strangers to pour their hearts out to people whom they’ve never met.
It’s the kind of intangible thing that compelled students at Eastern Carolina University to post photos of themselves clutching simple, handmade signs that read “VT — ECU Is Thinking of You” and inspired the student body of Rowan University in New Jersey to hold a prayer service for the victims of the shootings.
And it’s what drove students to fill our inbox with e-mails offering both condolence and support to VT students. But the emotions didn’t stop there. There were also e-mails loaded with anger, fear and genuine heartache. We’ve collected some of them below, along with interviews MTV News and our colleagues at mtvU did at colleges and universities around the country on Tuesday (April 17), in an attempt to gauge the emotions on campus one day after the Blacksburg tragedy.
“The vibe has changed. I mean, even in my 8:30 class this morning, the first class that I had since the event, it was a philosophy class. And the entire time we didn’t even speak about philosophy, it was just about the implications of it there and what might happen if something like that were to happen here. … I’ve looked at the numbers. I think Virginia Tech has something around 26,000 students. Here at Fordham University, on campus, we only have 4,500. So if 30 kids died here at Fordham University, the odds of someone being very close to me or being myself are very high.”
“I was very shocked. At first I thought it was maybe like a joke. For me personally, it resonated more because it was a college campus and I am a college student and what’s to say someone can’t come here, to UCLA, and do the same exact thing? As much as the university and the campus police say they’re prepared, but really, just look around you. It’s a big, open place. People could just walk in. I’m sure the Virginia Tech students didn’t think something like that could happen there either. So it’s just very disturbing that that happened and that someone would be pushed to do something like that. You don’t expect deaths to happen on a college campus where it’s about learning, it’s about people educating themselves.”
Los Angeles, CA
“You would think that a school or even a classroom would be a safe place, but over the past 10 years we have seen otherwise. I was just thinking a few weeks ago that university security is pathetic. People can walk in and out of buildings whether they are students or not. To all of the Hokies and families of VT students, faculty and staff, the [University of South Carolina] Gamecocks want to give our condolences and know that you are in our prayers.”
“I got back in my room and my roommate was like, ’You hear what happened at Virginia Tech?’ And then we started watching CNN and everything. And then my mom called me later ’cause it was pretty crazy because like a year ago I was actually considering going to Virginia Tech and it was a fairly even decision, and it’s terrible that it sounds like I’m happy that I chose Stevens over Virginia Tech. I probably would have gone to Virginia Tech for engineering, so that would have been the building I would have been in and everything so that’s pretty crazy. … Yesterday it was like the subject of everybody’s conversations. It’s just on everyone’s mind.”
Stevens Institute of Technology
“My mom works for The Associated Press, and I have some friends who play lacrosse for Virginia Tech, so she called me to let me know they were all right. It was shocking, appalling. It’s scary to think that it could happen on your campus, so I’m a little nervous and a little scared right now, to be honest. I talked to one of my friends there, and she said that everyone is so upset, and people don’t know what to do. She’s flying home for a little while, because she’s a little upset. She said the campus as a whole is pretty scared, and so they’re going to have to go through some big changes to make everyone feel safe there. Hopefully people can learn from this so it doesn’t happen again.”
“It gave me chills all over. I can’t even imagine if that happened here.”
“I go to school at Virginia Commonwealth University, which is only a couple of hours away from Tech. I can’t help but think of how easily this shooting could have happened at my school. Virginia Tech has always had the reputation of being a safe place in a safe city, so now that this has occurred there, it feels like this kind of thing can happen anywhere. When the Columbine shootings took place, it seemed so far away that it didn’t really hit me, but I can’t help but feel affected by this tragedy at Tech because it’s only hours away from me.”
“It’s just the talk of the campus.”
“I am devastated and appalled about the horrible tragedy that befell Virginia Tech’s campus this morning. I am a student at University of Oregon, a place that me and most of my peers feel very safe. It is beyond unsettling to be faced with the reality that something like this can happen anywhere at any time. I find it extremely frustrating that due to the ignorant and slow actions and assumptions made by the Virginia Tech administration and security that so many more deaths were caused. It is so sad that it takes the most tragic and fatal shooting in America to realize the severity that needs to be taken when it comes to safety procedures on college campuses. I hope that those who died did not do so in vain, and that every college and university around the nation will use this as a learning experiment and implement stricter and more intense lockdown plans.”
“The first acceptable reaction that anyone is going to have is one of shock — of both grief and terror. Just the idea that someone can come into where you are and the idea that you’re now vulnerable.”
“It’s absolutely shocking, sad and kind of scary too. You see 30 people shot and killed at Virginia Tech for no reason, and it’s sad. It’s the first thing that our professors brought up today, and it’s shocking. You almost don’t feel safe on campus. It’s a learning environment, a place where you should be focused on work and not worried about getting shot or someone going crazy. It’s all anyone is talking about on campus; it’s all you hear. It’s sad and my heart goes out to all those families that lost people.”
“I can’t believe it happened again, this time at an actual college.”
Stevens Institute of Technology
“I am a student at Radford University, 10 miles south of Virginia Tech, and this shooting has caused a sad day in our town. VT and Radford are practically brother-and-sister schools. We party together, visit each other’s schools often and are just very fond of one another as a college community. When I got news of this tragedy, I couldn’t believe what I’d heard; however, because of the August incident with the escaped convict, it was something that I didn’t think would turn out so serious. I got out of class at noon and took the bus back to my apartment. I sat with my roommate and watched the news in awe. The death count went from one, to seven, to something in the teens, to 22 to 30 and finally to 33. I was glued to the TV, trying to comprehend that just 10 miles up the road, there was this crazy world of pain happening and I couldn’t do anything to help. The first thing I did was jump on Facebook, making sure my VT friends were OK. When I found out everyone was fine, I was so thankful. But I realized that this was the most painful thing that has ever happened to Blacksburg and the New River Valley. My phone rang all day with family and friends calling to make sure I was OK, knowing that I lived so close to VT.”
“Three of my good friends go to Virginia Tech. My friend, he’s like one of those tough guys you know, but he was definitely shooken up about it. He really didn’t want to talk about it much ’cause he had to talk to his family. He was definitely shooken up for the type of kid he is.”
“It’s one of those stomach-drop moments. I don’t know, it was just tough. It just had such relevance, I guess. It was the same feeling to a lesser degree like 9/11 when I woke up seeing the plane crash. It’s that almost emptiness you feel. … I didn’t think when it happened, ’Oh, it might happen here now.’ It was more about where the emotions came from than about fear.”
Los Angeles, CA
For more on the Virginia Tech shootings, read “Online Mob Seeking VT Killer Got The Wrong Guy” ; ” ’People Are Missing': VT Student Reflects On Loss Of Friend” ; “Virginia Tech Students Reach Out To One Another, Seek Counseling” ; “On Virginia Tech Campus: ’I Just Can’t Believe This Happened Here’ “ ; ” ’It Was The Scariest Moment Of My Life': A Timeline Of VT Shootings” ; and “Virtual Memorial, MySpace Pages Help VT Mourners Cope Online.”
Crisis situations affect everyone differently. Visit HalfOfUs.com to get connected to support and resources on-campus or in your community.