Wednesday, April 18, 2007
"We Are Virginia Tech. We Will Prevail."
That's what the sign in front of the Comfort Inn in Blacksburg reads right now. I'll upload a picture once I can. It's striking, and the reason for that is because there are several streams of thought regarding the tragedy that happened here at Tech on Monday. The first is prayerfulness for those affected. People from all over have been letting me know that they're praying for the situation here, and I appreciate those prayers. Please keep them coming as long as you feel led to do so. If you're not the praying type, keep us in your thoughts. God can use and honor that, even if you don't know it. I personally haven't been very directly affected, as I was never in any danger. Of those killed or wounded, there's only one I even knew in passing. Ryan "Stack" Clark was the RA in West Ambler Johnston who was killed, and he had been a member of the 'Tones section of the Marching Virginians, in addition to holding some leadership posts. By all accounts and from my very limited experience, he was a great guy and it's a huge loss that he's gone. He will be missed.
The second stream I've noticed is that of unity and defiance in the face of evil, because in honesty that's what happened: evil intruded on our community. The enemy wasn't the killer, or guns, or mental instability, or any of those other things; it was the Enemy. We're fooling ourselves if we think there will be peace in this life apart from knowing God in Christ. This was a perfect example of that. Virginia Tech is an interesting mixture of the idyllic and the academic. It's a good school, and it's a good place to send your kids or to attend yourself. There's a sense of community and school spirit that seems alien to folks from almost every other college and university I've ever met. They're amazed at how nearly all of us have VT stickers on our cars, how we proudly wear our orange and maroon, and how we'll tell everyone who asks that we think that our school is great (and without putting their school down...unless it's UVA or Miami or something like that, and even that's done in something of an over-the-top way). We'll trace the "flying VT" logo (the one the sports teams use, and used in the post below this) in dust and doodle it on handouts. We're regarded as ever-so-slightly-not-quite-right-in-the-head, and that's fine with us. The first thing you see when you come here are cows and cornfields, followed by the stadium and a huge set of maroon bushes in the shape of a flying VT.
We have a certain, and good, reputation within the Commonwealth of Virginia and in the region. Often mocked as a "cow college," we're known as a place that produces solid, dependable, down-to-earth graduates. UVA is very highly ranked and William & Mary is indisputably the top school in the Commonwealth (at least for liberal arts), but it's Virginia Tech that, if mentioned, will elicit a reply along the lines of "Tech? My husband/daughter/cousin/neighbor went/goes there!" as opposed to a mere "Huh. Good school." Our motto, "Ut Prosim," is different from most other schools'. Whereas most places seem to have mottoes along the lines of "Knowlege, Brotherhood, Justice" and the like, ours means "That I May Serve." It's right, too: Virginia Tech Hokies are servant-leaders. Maybe it's because we have two mascots (the other is the Fighting Gobbler) and we're not precisely sure what a Hokie actually is (although we're sure it could whup your mascot), or because we have to drive through miles and hours of mountains to get to campus or because we're unique in believing that orange and maroon go together (and, gosh darn it, they do, or why else would the leaves turn those colors in the fall?), but there's a community spirit here and among alumni that's second to none.
That's why this was such a shocking, heartbreaking thing: evil inserted itself into our lives and attacked something we hold dear. I'd be shocked and sympathetic if it had happened in the town of Blacksburg or at nearby Radford University, but it happened at my alma mater. What I just said really does describe how I feel: not scared, a little sad, a little angry, but mostly heartbroken. At the same time, though, defiant. Go back and look at the pictures of students this week: there's some black for mourning, but there's a lot, a lot of orange and maroon. Everywhere you look people are wearing the school colors. At the convocation and vigil defiant chants of "Let's go Hokies!" were started and continued for several minutes. This community isn't going to fold or mope or sulk, although there have been tears and there will be many more.
Virginia Tech is a good school. Send your kids here if you want them to gain an ethos of community spirit and of service to others. They'll pick up a pretty decent education along the way. Blacksburg and the New River Valley are beautiful, and both Blacksburg and nearby Roanoke provide access to high culture, with the surrounding area, especially Floyd County, showcasing the best of Appalachian life. You can go to the opera in Roanoke, hike at the Cascades and Dragon's Tooth, see major bands in concert, eat country cookin' at the Homeplace, watch us demolish our athletic opponents, or just enjoy a quiet moment at the Duck Pond (and amaze your friends at the stepping stones).
We are Virginia Tech, and we will prevail.