Families mark 8 years since Virginia Tech shooting

Families of the Virginia Tech massacre victims and others gather at the Capitol Bell Tower in Richmond to mark eight years since the lives of 32 students and staff were taken in Blacksburg.(WTOP/Max Smith)

RICHMOND, Va. – A bell tolled once for each of the 32 victims of the Virginia Tech shooting as family members wearing orange and maroon ribbons, ties or shirts bowed their heads Thursday morning to mark eight years without their loved ones.

Joe Samaha of Centreville lost his daughter Reema in the shooting.

“We don’t count the years, we count the days,” Samaha says. “Two-thousand, nine-hundred, thirty-two days ago this tragedy happened. And when I close my eyes in reflection, and I hear the bells tolling, I put myself in the classroom that day, and it just brings tears to my eyes.”

A former Virginia Tech student Colin Goddard says he will never forget being on the floor of his French classroom that day.

Current Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Steven Flaherty responded to the 911 calls that day. He read the names of the victims at Thursday morning’s ceremony on Capitol Square in Richmond.

Virginia first lady Dorothy McAuliffe and Education Secretary Anne Holton joined families at the ceremony as well. Holton was first lady at the time of the shooting in Blacksburg.

Both say more needs to be done to make sure all college students are safe, pointing to cases like the deaths of Hannah Graham, Morgan Harrington, and Anjelica “AJ” Hadsell.

Virginia lawmakers have acted on bills this year inspired by the Hannah Graham case. Graham was a sophomore at the University of Virginia when she disappeared in downtown Charlottesville last fall. Her remains were later found in Albemarle County. The search for Graham and the manhunt for the man now charged in her death Jesse Matthew made national headlines.

Harrington, a Virginia Tech student, also disappeared in Charlottesville. And the remains of Hadsell, a Longwood University student, were found last week in Southampton County.

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