I'm still a little numb, but I think I've begun to wrap my brain around yesterday. It's amazing to me how much Virginia Tech still affects me, but I really did love my time there and love the people I met there. I've often said that Blacksburg is one of the few places in this country outside of the Northeast that I could live, and nothing will ever change that.
Inevitably, in times like this, people's minds run to the negatives. What could have been done? (Nothing, really, in an open society a deranged nutbag will do damage if he wants.) How could this happen? Why here? Why now?
I'm not going to wallow.
What happened yesterday isn't Virginia Tech.
THIS is Virginia Tech.
That's how I remember campus. A gorgeous day in late February, as I wondered around campus taking pictures, realizing that in just a few months I would leave the Blue Ridge Mountains and head back north. Campus is a gorgeous place, and I'm awe-struck every time I go back and find the nestled buildings of Hokie Stone set in a small town in the mountains.
Virginia Tech is, obviously, a tech school. And a damn good one. It's where I got my learn on, and I'm doing ok. It's students understand how to leverage the internet. Which is why I'm proud of the 22000+ students, alumni, and friends who've joined a Facebook group in rememberance.
Virginia Tech is home to an awesome sports program, and a cozy basketball arena that Bob Ryan mentioned as being the best kept secret in college basketball:
Virginia Tech's Cassell Coliseum. Why no one ever talks about this place, I don't know. The 10,000 seats all feel as if they are breathing down the back of every player. This is an electrifying atmosphere.
Virginia Tech is the type of place that a national correspondent goes on TV and talks about her love for her campus, even while all of her peers are focused on second guessing and stirring the pot.
Virginia Tech creates the type of people who engender such good will and leave such a mark on the world that people who don't know them write hundreds of posts about them. When all they shared was a love of the Detroit Tigers. VT creates the type of person who leaves such an indelible mark that someone like Curtis Granderson of the Detroit Tigers will make a really nice gesture and make a Hokie his #1 fan on MySpace. (By the way, this is just one reason Curtis Granderson might be my favorite non-Red Sox player.)
Virginia Tech is the type of school, the type of community, that causes a 22 year old student, on the verge of graduating, to recall how he ended up at Virginia Tech, from a small town in Central Massachusetts, and what it meant to him:
As my days at Tech come to a close, I just wanted to say some things about how this university, and this website, have influenced me. Parts of this will probably ramble, some may be incoherent, and some may be offensive. I really don't know what's going to come out; this is just an outlet for the myriad of feelings that have been going around in my head as I get closer to the last moment of my college life.
It was about 4 years ago, late August 1996 that I first set foot in Blacksburg as a Hokie. Tech hadn't really been a school I was considering, it was an afterthought. To this day, I'm still not sure what compelled me to apply here. I had never visited the campus, knew the school mostly through A-10 Basketball (growing up in Massachusetts, I was a UMass fan). I had applied to Tufts University, Oberlin College, and WPI. I had my heart set on Tufts, and it seemed to everyone around me that it was a lock. I wanted to apply to a 4th school, CalTech was promising, as was Carnegie Mellon, but neither was really in an area of the country I wanted to be in. For some reason, Tech had sent me an application .... so I filled it in.
Within a week, I had heard back from Tech. A few weeks later, Tufts decided to break my heart, as they accepted only *9* freshman into the engineering program. Of course, they said, if I reapplied for general admission, I would probably be accepted. Fortunately for me, I'm spiteful and told them to shove their application. With acceptances to Tech, Oberlin, and WPI in hand, I had a decision to make. Stay close to home, go to Ohio, or go to Virginia. Right about this same time, I believe there was a bowl game on TV ... the Sugar Bowl I believe. I caught one part of the game, a Brian Still punt return. A few days later, Tech had my parents money.
Back to that fateful day in 1996. Here I was, a young 18 year old, 750 miles away from home, setting foot on a campus that I had been on for a total of 16 hours previously (orientation). Tech was a large, scary place, and somewhere I wasn't sure I wanted to be. My, how things change. Four years later, Blacksburg is my home, and my heart doesn't want to leave.
Over the last 4 years, VT grew to be my home. I've learned it's history, explored it's campus and surroundings, and been educated by some of the best (and worst) people in the world. Saturday, I get my degree in Computer Engineering ... the product of hard work, no sleep, and many hours on HokieCentral. HC has been a huge part of my life at Tech. I'm a die hard sports fan (you have to be if you are a fan of the Red Sox and Cubs!), and I'm a diehard Tech fan. Whether it was football games versus Akron, basketball versus Coastal Carolina, or baseball versus Rhode Island, I was there. Of course, that's probably a big reason my grades weren't what they should have been.
I discovered HC my freshman year. I don't think I started posting until my sophomore year, but it was that year I started posting basketball game reports. I don't know if anyone read them, but it was good to be involved in a community that cared about Tech sports as much as I did. Over time, I've never met any of you. But I feel as though I know you all. We've disagreed and agreed, argued and concurred ... but through it all, we share a thread, the love for Virginia Tech, and the love for Virginia Tech sports.
I can't tell you the nights that I sat at my computer, constantly refreshing the screen to see about a new recruit, or waiting for the next message in a particularly heated thread. They say that college is all about experience - HokieCentral, and all of you, were a large part of my college experience. Tomorrow, I become an alumni, like many of you already are. I hope I can make you all proud.
I'm incredibly proud of this school. I've developed such a deep found love for this place that I find myself spouting it's virtue to all that will listen. I'm so grateful to have been here when I was. The last 4 years will probably go down as 4 of the most importand in Tech history. When I was accepted here, and people asked didn't know what Tech was all about. 4 years later, thanks to people like Pres. Torgersen, Ace Custis, Frank Beamer, Corey Moore, and Michael Vick, everyone knows the name of Virginia Tech. Even more thanks go to the faculty, staff, and administration who've worked incredibly hard to pin a label of outstanding academics along with our athletic prowess.
That's it I guess. I'm of such mixed emotions heading into tomorrow, but I felt I would share this New Englander's thoughts and feelings with some of the people who've been a part of my life over the last years. I'm moving back to Massachusetts Sunday, to work in Woburn, MA. I'm going to miss Blacksburg more than I ever anticipated. I'm going to miss the friends that I've made here. But, you won't be getting rid of me. I won't be at the games, but I'll be watching. And posting. And someday, I'll make a HC tailgate, and meet all of you. And you can all laugh at me for being a northerner.
Thinking back, one thought sticks with me ....
Tufts not accepting me was one of the greatest moments of my life.
That was something I posted in the wee hours of a May morning in 2000, just a few days before I graduated. It was posted to a website called HokieCentral, which has since become TechSideline.com, and has been an invaluable resource for me in keeping true to my Hokie roots, following the athletic side of my school. The community at TechSideline was invaluable yesterday, yet another wonderful feather in the cap of the Virginia Tech community.
I got so many phone calls, text messages, and emails yesterday. Messages from people who I haven't talked to in months, or longer. Messages from people who've only met me recently. It made me wonder a bit about why exactly everyone felt so compelled to talk to me about it. And, of course, it dawned on me: I talk about my damn school all the time. I really love the place. I still wear my VT gear. I talk about Blacksburg like I lived there all my life.
I still use my vt.edu email address. Every time someone asks me for my email, I make sure they know I went to Virginia Tech and that I'm still proud of that.
It's going to be a trying few months for the Virginia Tech community. Realistically, it will probably be a trying few years. But we will survive. This will not be our defining moment. Clarity will come with the passage of time, but the negativity of yesterday will surely be drowned out by the strength, faith, service, and humanity of the Virginia Tech community.