WASHINGTON — Next Sunday, April 16, is the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings.
And even though 10 years have passed, the tragedy is still very painful.
“For some, 10 years will be as significant as it was 10 years ago,” said Mark Owczarski, a Virginia Tech spokesman.
He said this year’s “Day of Remembrance” will actually be held over several days, with a focus on events bringing the community together.
“One thing that we know after 10 years is that community is so important in terms of providing comfort, in terms of providing support and in trying to find that ability to continue in the darkest of times,” Owczarski said.
On Saturday, the annual Run in Remembrance will be held on campus, followed by a community picnic.
On Sunday, the 10-year anniversary itself, there will be a series of solemn events — starting a midnight with the lighting of a ceremonial candle at the April 16 Memorial.
Later that morning, there will be a wreath laying. In the afternoon, the university’s commemoration event will be held with the reading of a the full biographies of the 32 who were killed. The anniversary will conclude with an evening candle light vigil.
At midnight, they will take the ceremonial candle from the April 16 Memorial and carry it back into Burruss Hall.
“And what that symbolizes is our commitment to always remember. That way the candle, the light is not extinguished outside, but it is brought back in so that flame that remembrance will continue forever,” Owczarski noted.
“Going back 10 years, we vowed, we promised that we will never forget. The day of remembrance is that commitment to remember the lives lost.”
He said in the days following the tragedy, 90,000 remembrance gifts were sent from people around the county and around the world.
“Whether they be cards, whether they be quilts, whether they be food and chocolate, flowers,” he said, all the gifts were all heartfelt.
The items that could be archived by the university were, and for those that could not be achieved, they were documented and photos were taken.
Owczarski said some of the archived items are being displayed at locations across campus.
“So people can see the support that people all over the world sent to us to tell us they were with us.”
In the days and hours that followed the tragedy, the Hokies United, a student organization put large pieces of plywood for people to sign and to write their expressions of condolence and remembrance out on the university’s drillfield.
Owczarski said the “white boards” were kept as part of our university archives and will be on display on campus.
“The white boards we’re very much included in photographs from that time and to bring those out really is a direct connection to that time 10 years ago,” he explained.
Owczarski said the 10-year milestone will be tough and additional support will be available for both students and employees.
He pointed out that so many employees were at Virginia Tech when the shootings happened and they may have a tough time on the anniversary.