Virginia Tech: April 2017 college happenings

Three days of remembrance for higher ed administrators, faculty, staff & families
By: | Issue: April, 2017
March 20, 2017

A link to Virginia Tech’s We Remember website, created immediately after the tragedy, holds a prominent place at the top right of the university’s home page.

Each spring, updated commemoration event information gets posted to the site,—with all previous content remaining accessible and the victims’ photos and biographies easy to find.

“Nothing has ever been taken down,” says Mark Owczarski, assistant vice president for news and information at the university. “It’s there as public record.”

This year’s events will be similar to those held in each of the past 10 years—although because April 16 is Easter Sunday, formal activities will be spread over three days. “It’s essentially who we are,” says Owczarski of the tragedy.

“There’s no shaking it, so we embrace it. It’s sort of like if you fall as a child and have a scar on your forehead—it becomes who you are.”

On Friday, April 14, a “Performance in Remembrance” will feature the student wind ensemble, choirs and dance troupe, among other performing arts groups.

Saturday events include the 3.2 Mile Run in Remembrance (named such in memory of the victims), a community picnic and First Responder Appreciation Day at the baseball stadium.

At the stroke of midnight, the ceremonial candle will be lit. Then, at 9:43 a.m., a wreath-laying and moment of silence will take place, followed by a mid-day universitywide commemoration event on the Drillfield at the April 16 Memorial and, later, a candlelight vigil.

The overall focus is on resiliency—and on doing what’s right for the families of victims, Owczarski says. “Family members do come back, but they come back in private. Many events are private that we’ll never promote.”

Owczarski, who has been with the university for 17 years, says of the 2017 milestone: “Ten years matters; it’s a big deal. A lot of people are going to find a way to be in Blacksburg on that day—even with it being Easter Sunday, which is perhaps serendipitous, perhaps not. Our families continue to carry a very heavy cross.”

Melissa Ezarik, managing editor, UB