We also asked the students to send us their written thoughts on that terrible day, which we'll be posting here throughout the afternoon. Here is freshman Elena Dulys-Busbaum, who started at Virginia Tech just this fall:
In the wake of the shootings, freshmen at Virginia Tech are a part of a new generation: the ones that came after. We cannot connect to the students who were here the way they can to each other -- but we are still considered strong, supportive members of the community at large. The tragedy, to us, is more than a cold television screen, but less than the memory of real terror that comes with a terrible event experienced firsthand.
I was at lunch my senior year in high school when I found out. Being from northern Virginia, students from my high school so frequently went to Virginia Tech that text messages were flying and we were trying to frantically find out who was okay -- much like on September 11th, when those whose parents worked in Washington, DC, were trying to get news in any way possible.
In the following hours and days, I was in shock and angered by my peers' frequent questions of whether or not I still planned to attend the school. I was angered that they could not think about the victims and the community of Virginia Tech -- only whether or not I would feel safe there. To be scared by a senseless act of violence would only realize the act's purpose. I am not one to be afraid. And even from a distance, the strength of the community amazed me, filling me with pride that I would be a part of the healing. Honestly, the thought of changing schools never even crossed my mind.
I think we feel bonded to our fellow students here more than freshmen at other schools across the country. We could be sitting in our campus coffee shop and see a girl pass by -- one we saw in her most vulnerable moments, broken down from the loss of a friend and exposed by the cameras for everyone in America to see on television. We see these people as they are: students, friends, real people shattered by tragedy and loosely pieced together over the summer. We see that they have taken their grief as a burden and bravely returned to a campus and community they love. We see the outpourings of support: at every special event when the 32 balloons are released the air in Blacksburg. We were there when the memorial was revealed on a hot summer day; we were there to see the flowers wilt on the steps of Norris; we were there to see the vigil for NIU and the renewed grief it caused; we were there for the aftermath.
With the anniversary here, there is a certain uneasiness that I cannot explain. Even though I was not here, did not lose anyone, did not cry in front of a camera lens, I love this community and will take part in the remembrance of the victims that ate where I eat, studied where I study, walked where I walk. I will keep in mind the suffering that my fellow students have endured and be by their side always -- especially on April 16th.
After all, we are all Hokies.