NeVer ForgeT

There are a lot of things we do in life that seem totally normal, totally innocent, and we never even consider that there might be another side to them. Seven years ago, that's exactly how I felt about the media, specifically when tragic events happen. It was something I never gave a thought about. Something crazy, shocking, tragic, senseless happened somewhere in the country, or in the world? Turn on the TV, of course. That changed for me seven years ago today. Seven years ago today, when I turned on my TV, I didn't see nameless faces and unknown locations. I saw my college campus.

You might not remember why today is a significant day, but I promise you knew it was one seven years ago. You turned on your TV, you read the Facebook posts (these were the pre-Twitter days), you saw what happened. Maybe you had never heard of Virginia Tech, maybe you had no idea where Blacksburg, Virginia was. But that changed that day.

Since I know you're thinking it (I know because every time it comes up that I went to VT, someone asks): thankfully, neither I nor any of my friends were hurt. I'm not sure why people ask that, like my "no" answer somehow relieved me from feeling pain that day. Even though my answer is "no," that didn't make that day less confusing. It didn't make it easier to navigate the days that followed. It didn't hurt any less. My time in college will forever have a dark line dividing "Pre" and "Post".

I remember spending that Monday at my then-boyfriend (now-husband)'s apartment, with our eyes glued to CNN, watching with horror and disbelief, as the death toll rose throughout the day. By the way, death toll isn't a term I pulled out of nowhere - I remember it from the CNN graphic, in big bold letters across the lower edge of the TV screen. It was jarring to read those words. Death toll should never be a phrase used in conjunction with educational institutions. And yet, here we are.

The next day the university held a convocation. By that point the media circus that had descended upon our little mountain town was in full swing. That was the first time I really realized how sick the media can be. I remember standing in line waiting to go in to the stadium and having reporters walking up and down the line trying to get people to comment. As if, with all of us standing there confused, shocked, and sobbing, anyone had anything to say that wasn't already painfully obvious. It disgusted me.

As soon as the news networks started airing their stories, suddenly everyone had an opinion on how this happened, why this happened, what the school could have done differently, what the school should have done differently. As if overnight and with some information from their news network of chose, everyone suddenly became as expert on school shootings. Or just on crazy fucking shit that happens in the world. That part was infuriating.

It felt violating. People thought that because they had watched the news coverage, that somehow gave them a right to pull the images they saw out from the TV and manipulate them however they wanted. People who had never even laid their own two eyes on my beautiful Hokie stone-clad campus were writing newspaper articles, blog posts, comments on the Internet, about things that they had no idea about whatsoever. Because they. weren't. there.

April 16 wasn't the first tragedy to occur and it certainly wasn't the last. Sadly, these kinds of things happen more often than they should. Since then, I've found myself conflicted on how to react to other news stories. I hesitate to even call them that, because they're not news stories, they are peoples lives that have just been shattered, lives that will never be the same. I now know that firsthand. I'm especially sensitive to shootings now, so when things like Aurora or Sandy Hook happen (and I hate that those places are now synonymous with one terrible thing that happened there, because I know what that's like firsthand too), I'm really cautious and mindful of how much coverage I listen to or watch about it. After hearing about it initially, I consciously make a decision not to feed into the media frenzy. I think it can too easily get to a point where we've gotten beyond a genuine care for the community experiencing such a terrible thing, and crossed over into feeding our own morbid curiosities. It's distasteful and it's disrespectful, and it's just not something I want to be a part of.

There was a silver lining to all of the media coverage, whether it was welcome or not. Thanks to it, we received an outpouring of love and support from people all over the country, from people who had never even heard of Virginia Tech or Blacksburg before. Maybe some of you reading this had never heard of it before April 16, 2007. All of the messages, the "We are all Hokies today" Facebook profile pictures, the photos of memorial events on other campuses...those are things I will never forget.

It's hard to believe that it's been seven years since that day, since time virtually stood still as we tried to make sense of the how's and the why's. There are things about that day that I will take with me forever - some by choice, some not. Seven years later, there are still more questions than there are answers.  The depression I've struggled with since I was a teenager was at its worst my first two years of college, and at that time I was questioning my decision to be at VT at all.  I will never forget the way my heart swelled as I stood on the field at Lane Stadium at the convocation, with thousands of voices chanting "Let's Go Hokies" in unison. As horrific as this tragedy was, the unity of the school in response to it brought me back to life.

I'm proud of my school and proud of the way our community stood together. I'm proud of the things I've chosen to do and the way I've lived my life since that day. I was proud to be a Hokie on April 16, 2007, I'm proud to be one today, and I'm proud that I'll always be one.


  1. That was a beautiful post. I agree with you wholeheartedly about the "media machine." On some level, I think that it feeds into these sorts of things happening more often; the shooters/stabbers/what-have-yous want notoriety more than anything, and we keep giving it to them time after time.

    Hope you're doing ok today <3

  2. This is such a beautifully written post Tracy! I wholeheartedly agree with you about the media that day and these days now. I was in high school at the time of the shootings. The shooter had gone to my high school as well as two of the victims. Having news crews and reporters trying to get comments from any kid they could was just awful. I remember hating that we had that notoriety all of sudden. But seeing the community come together and being able to be a part of it was really amazing. Becoming a Hokie a year and a half is still one of my proudest moments!

    Thinking of you today sweet friend and fellow Hokie :)

  3. I just can't even imagine what that must have felt like. And you are so right - the media can be sick and twisted. Thinking of you and lots and lots of prayers going out to the families and everyone that was involved today!

  4. I can't even imagine being in your position. Such a sad time. :/

  5. What a wonderful post. The VT tragedy is the first time I remember being aware of the impact social media could have. I was in my 8th grade science class when we found out, and a bunch of kids in the class had older brothers or sisters attending Tech. We weren't supposed to know until after school, but of course the media spread the word (along with some illegal in school texting). I can't imagine what it would have been like to be there and have the media invade such a beautiful place.

  6. This is such a well written post, I felt emotional reading it. <3

  7. Wow. I remember that happening. I'm glad none of your friends were hurt. I haven't witnessed it personally for me, but the media can be very cruel to people who are suffering. Can't believe it's been 7 years. It's so sad when things like this happen.

  8. Tracy, Thank you so much for sharing this. I personally have become so disconnected from the news/media that over the last few years I've completely managed to tune it out. It's sad because your experience was real. Tragedies happen everyday, but I've allowed myself to become aloof to them. Thank you for the gentle reminder that these things are happening to real people. Sending you comfort and peace my friend. Xo


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