JMU turned out in burgundy and orange this past Tuesday in respect for our neighbors at Virginia Tech. It's hard to believe it has been a whole year since the shootings. In some ways it seems like a lifetime.
I'm sure most of the country did not realize Tuesday was the anniversary. Because of the proximity and because so many of our students at JMU have friends or family at VA Tech, it is something that comes up repeatedly in our day to day life. We felt the shock and loss last year like everyone else and remain plugged in even now.
I was fortunate enough to be able to go to VA Tech in the week immediately following the tragedy. Our director of the student union is very good friends with the director of Tech's union. When everything went to hell, her staff were the ones who stayed on campus, stayed open, received and displayed the thousands and thousands of banners, cards, and pieces of artwork sent in tribute. They were troopers and it took an emotional toll.
About three days after the shootings we got the call to provide respite for her exhausted staff. Along with about 15 other members of our staff, I got to go to Tech and work in the union. An extra pair of hands for whatever they needed. Mostly we sorted and opened mail then found places to put the memorials. Every square inch of their student union was covered. Stair railings, walls, hallways… Things were hanging from the ceiling and they erected temporary walls to provide more display space. The outpouring of love and support was amazing and moving and heartbreaking. I feel honored to have been able to be there in the wake of a nightmare and to do at least a little to make their lives easier.
Though it may have been a year ago, it is still right there in our lives, almost as big as it was a year ago. We are with the Tech community in spirit and in love.