By: Lauren Compton
It is a place where people are silent. Some people bow their heads, some gaze at the stones, and others cry. Standing at the memorial you can't help, but feel something. There are 32 stones in honor of people who died on this beautiful campus all lit by candlelight. It is all so humbling. Behind each of those names there was a person, a dream, and a life cut short. When you stand there and think of all these lives lost, you remember how precious life is.
I turned back and looked at the drill field where thousands of students have gathered to mourn the loss of yet another Hokie, and I felt so many emotions.
If you have ever visited the April 16 memorial on the Virginia Tech campus, you know how it feels to stand there and see those stones. I visited VA Tech for the first time this month to report on the death of VT Officer Deriek Crouse. I was swept away by the beauty of the campus, but I was also shaken up.
I remember watching the coverage of the April 16 shooting in 2007. I was a senior at VCU, and I could barely believe what was happening. To be where it all happened and see the memorial for the victims was incredibly humbling and sad. It was even more surreal to be there reporting about another death on campus. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the students there. No matter how many years you study journalism, nothing prepares you for reporting tragedy, especially if you are a softie like me. In those moments I remind myself of my responsibility to tell the story, and to let the viewers experience what I felt.
I covered the vigil for Officer Crouse on the Virginia Tech drill field. There in the December night I stood gazing at a sea of people holding candles to honor this man. This is Hokie pride, that sense of community everyone talks about on the Virginia Tech campus. There were tears, hugs, sadness, and a resounding promise to overcome. A school that has seen tragedy more than once came together and vowed not let the violence define Hokie Nation. It was powerful. It was also a beautiful display of the human spirit. When violence happens, it is so easy to let it keep you down. It takes a lot of strength to get back up, stronger and wiser.
A Virginia Tech official came and spoke to me before my live report. I said, "This is incredible." The tech official responded, "That is Hokie Nation. This is what we do."
I'll never forget that. I will never forget the feelings I had standing on that field. After my live report, I looked up to the black December night sky and there was a circle surrounding the moon. It looked like a rainbow. It was a beautiful reminder of how even in tragedy the Earth, life and Mother Nature keep moving and changing.