April 16 2007. The day that changed the lives for many of us. The day that changed Virginia Tech. The day that 32 innocent lives were lost. The day that all Hokies will remember forever. The day that I can never forget.
On the 9th anniversary of April 16th I wanted to share my story from those difficult times.
Yes, we were there.
While I won’t be talking about the details of the Virginia Tech massacre, you can read about it by following this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Tech_shooting
Even though my first class wasn’t till 11am that very day, I was at my professor’s office hours discussing a couple of doubts I had related to my upcoming exam. For those of you familiar with the VT campus, I was in Durham Hall. Somewhere around 9:45am (I do not remember the exact time) when I heard the gun shots. Since there was construction ongoing at the Virginia Tech campus, me and my professor didn’t think much about the sounds until an email popped up on his computer, saying that we were under a mandatory lockdown, since there had been some shooting on campus.
After about 5 minutes, a police officer entered my professor’s office and literally picked me up and escorted me to the exit, instructing me to head either off campus, or towards the residential part of the campus. My professor went to the other classes to inform other students and teachers to do the same. I will never forget the sight that was ready to greet me when I stepped out towards Norris Hall. Lined up right there were so many ambulances and police cars that I was shocked. I had never seen that many ambulances and cop cars in my entire life let alone in one place!! I was scared to say the least. The squad team guy escorting me dropped me off at the Drillfield from where I gazed at the site that was unfolding in front of my eyes, I was shocked, I was scared. There were students and other people being taken out of the building (Norris Hall) who were bleeding, hurt, crying, wailing, in pain and there I was, frozen in my tracks at the scariest sight I was witnessing, worse than any nightmare conceivable. At that time I had no clue about the severity of the events that would forever change the history of Virginia Tech.
I managed to walk back to my dorm (Newman Hall) in a daze. Only when I got to my room and switched on the TV did I realize what was going on. People dead on campus! Dead! On campus! My campus! WHAT? HOW? WHY? All these questions were going through my mind and then it hit me, Pavit had a class that morning in Norris Hall. Pavit, the hubby (boyfriend then)!! I took out my phone and tried calling him, no reply, I called him again and again and again, no reply, no reply, no reply! OMG! Fear gripped me. Where was this guy? I made quick calls to 4 of my best friends and ensured that they were all ok. My parents called and I ensured them I was ok. Pavit’s parents called and I didn’t want to scare them so I said I will call back in a little bit once I was with him. Then the phone lines jammed. AND I HAD YET TO CONTACT PAVIT!!
I couldn’t think of anything. The entire school was under lockdown so I couldn’t get out but since Pavit and I were in the same dorm (ours was a co-ed dorm, his room was in the basement while mine was on the 1st floor) I decided to check his room in case he was there. I stepped out but was not allowed to go down since there were cops on our floors as well and for security reasons, we weren’t allowed to leave our rooms. Back in my room now, I continued trying to call Pavit but in vain. Those 15 minutes felt like a lifetime. I got out of my room again and pretended to be going to the rest room and quickly ran down the stairs towards his room. I knocked on his door but the room was open so I entered and there he was… There was Pavit… SLEEPING! Yes, you read it right, he was sleeping! Say what?! I woke him up by screaming at him and hugged him and started crying. When he came to his senses, he asked what happened and I didn’t reply back, I just switched on the TV. And there we saw it again, the death toll had risen and now there were 32 dead on campus.
He had bunked his class and I was glad he had. Anytime he bunked class I would be mad at him, but this time around, I hugged him and cried, a lot! Thank God he had decided to sleep in and not go to class, thank God he was ok, We tried calling Pavit’s parents to ensure them that all was ok but since the lines had been jammed, it took us a while but we finally informed them that all was well with us. We spent the next couple of hours talking about life, the uncertainty of everything, all while sitting on the floor since we were asked to stay away from the windows in case of a stray bullet.
In about a couple of hours, things had settled and the cops had things under control. The lockdown was over and we were free to mingle with our friends and others. We all met up, hugged each other and talked about how fortunate we were to be alive, and how we should make our life meaningful going forward since God had given us another chance.
Classes and exams were cancelled for that semester and we were given the option to leave and start our summer vacations early. My parents were visiting my sister in London then, and asked me to come to them but I chose to stay back, and I am glad I did. The next couple of days were difficult but we as Virginia Tech had never been so united before. We were one. We were going through a tragedy and we were in this together. The university offered counseling for students and faculty. There were also community events planned, free food, games and a lot of other things were organized to help us recuperate and come out of this tragedy. We had lost 32 members of our Hokie family, it would take time to heal, but we could atleast share the pain.
I am sharing some pictures from the community events that we attended:
On this day, even 9 years after the incident, all us Hokies unite and pay a tribute to those 32 lives lost that day. Other universities from the USA support us by saying that “Today we are all Virginia Tech.” this is how united we can all be despite our differences and rivalry. Every year I feel a lot of emotions on this day – from feeling lucky to be alive, grateful that all my friends were safe, fear about how suddenly life can change, and anger as to why those innocent 32 lives have to pay the price for 1 person losing his mind.
Life is short, value it and live with no regrets. I want to take this opportunity to tell the ones I love, that I love them with all my heart and even if we may not talk every day, I often think about you and am lucky to have you in my life. To my family and friends, a big thank you for all the love and support, always. I request each and every one of you reading this to thank God for all that we have and don’t forget to count your blessings. Take this time to appreciate life a little more and tell your loved ones you love them.
We are the Hokies.
We will prevail.
We will prevail.
We will prevail.
We are Virginia Tech.
Here is a link to this year’s remembrance events: https://www.weremember.vt.edu/
A big shout out to all my fellow Hokies… Love You Guys!!!