Virginia Tech alum reflects on 2007 shooting

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — For some it’s hard to believe it has been a decade since the deadliest school shooting in the nation’s history.

A Virginia Tech Senior shot and killed 32 innocent people and wounded 17 others at the Blacksburg campus in 2007.

That tragedy deeply affected thousands of Virginia Tech alumni who live here in Hampton Roads. Some of them will set aside time this Easter Sunday, to honor and remember those who died.

Chris Jennings of Virginia Beach, graduated from Tech in 1996. He is helping to plan the local remembrance event. April 16, 2007 is a day he will never forget.

“I had just dropped my kids off at daycare.”

Jennings, a financial advisor and father of two, says he then headed home to prep for the day ahead. The phone rang. It was another Tech alum asking if he’d heard the news that two people had been shot at the Blacksburg campus. “I was, like, ‘Oh my gosh, that was horrible!'”

Jennings has been president of the Tidewater Chapter of Virginia Tech alumni for 15 years. As the events at Tech unfolded, he says he watched tv in shock as the number of victims kept climbing.

“From 2 to 12 to 22 to ultimately 32! I thought it was a typo.”

Sadly it was true: 32 lives taken that day – all members of the Virginia Tech family.

“The community came together in ways that we didn’t even know were possible, and we were a tight family beforehand, but we became a lot closer afterwards.”

Virginia Tech alumni and supporters have met each year since, at Tech’s Agricultural Research and Extension Center, on Diamond Springs Road in Virginia Beach.

The dogwood sapling they planted in 2008 continues to grow and blossom every spring. Jennings and Tech alumni plan to place a four-inch thick engraved block of granite in front of the tree this upcoming Sunday. “We celebrate their courage, rue their unfulfilled dreams,” Jennings said.

The public is invited to join Virginia Tech alumni, Sunday, April 16 at 7 p.m., at their “little slice of Blacksburg.” The Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center is located at 1444 Diamond Springs Road. They’re hoping you’ll come out, light a candle of remembrance there, then light another candle of hope in your own community.

“We’re going to remember again the legacy of service that they left us, the duty that we hold as alumni to uphold our school motto which is “Ut Prosim”, which means “That I May Serve.”