I was…a leader in Hokies United

You never think that the day your life changes will start just like any other day.  April 16th started like that.  I was in the Student Government office, starting my week as I always did when we received the first campus alert.

Seconds later, I was in a chat room with student leaders who comprised the Hokies United network when we learned what was happening in Norris Hall, realized the magnitude of this was unprecedented, and immediately got to work.

Most of us were weeks away from graduation and yet were suddenly faced with the horror of not knowing if all of our friends were alive.  What we did know was that Hokies United had a job to do and we channeled everything we had into that mission.

In those first 18 hours, we organized the Candlelight Vigil, broke into the Quarry to take 33 Hokie Stones for a Drillfield memorial, gave interviews to the press, and built Memorial Walls where condolences and support could be expressed.

It was the hardest work we’ve ever done, but by far the most worth it.

Our work continued with the “Hokies United: We Are Virginia Tech” T-shirt campaign, Community Picnic & Peace Gathering, and across the summer months as we maintained the Memorial, sat on Recovery & Planning Committees, and organized the “Concert For Virginia”.  It was the hardest work we’ve ever done, but by far the most worth it.

After five years, the pain still lingers but the support we felt from across the globe and from each other continues to sustain us.  Those of us in the Hokies United family have all since graduated and live with the memories of 4/16 as poignant reminders to love life, take nothing for granted and do as the parents of the fallen asked us: “Use your degrees to make the world a better place.  That’s the best way you can honor our daughters and sons.”  We live for the 32.