"We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again."
When I wrote my post about transferring, I thought that would be the hardest post I would ever have to write, at least for a while. I was wrong.
Yesterday morning I woke up and looked at my calendar, realizing it was the eve of the April 16th shootings at Virginia Tech. With a heavy heart, I prepared for my day and dressed in Relay for Life spirit gear because this week I am focusing on fighting for a world where we celebrate more birthdays. Later in the afternoon, I saw a photo on my twitter timeline of the Boston Marathon finish line. I thought, I hoped it was a sick joke. Minutes later, I was watching live coverage on CBS.com, horrified by the senseless violence that had just occurred.
On the eve of the anniversary of the deadliest school shooting in history, still grieving from the Sandy Hook shootings, I watched as people rushed through the streets to help those wounded in a terrorist attack. I do not pretend to understand these events, just as I did not understand the shooting of Officer Derrick Crouse in December 2011 as I sat on lockdown in my dorm room with my best friend. What I have come to understand is how a community can unite amidst pain and sorrow.
I had planned to write this post before yesterday's events. I am not here to write about tragedy, but about community. This is about the enduring spirit of the Hokie Nation. This is not a nation defined by tragedy. It is nation that can sell out a 66,000 person stadium and has the greatest entrance in college football (0:45 second mark-ish). A nation that bands together to give back to their community, fight cancer in the largest collegiate relay, and care for each other. It is true that once you become a Hokie, you never want to be anything else. It becomes a part of who you are, you will forever bleed orange and maroon.
As y'all know, I left Virginia Tech behind to pursue an education at UVA this year. It hasn't been easy for me, I miss Virginia Tech and I feel a bit lost at my new school. This weekend I got a phone call from my brother informing me that he had gotten into the Honors dorm that I had lived in last year. I cried. I cried tears of joy for him because I know he is going to have the most amazing experience, I cried because I am jealous, and I cried because I realize that the limestone building of East Ambler Johnston is his home now, not mine.
Though my life has taken me on a different path, I am forever a part of the Hokie Nation. I laugh with them, I cry with them, I jump with them. Tears fill my eyes watching Nikki Giovanni's speech and goosebumps cover my arms reliving the Miami game. I strive to embody Ut Prosim in my day-to-day life and I'd like to think I am a better person for it.
I will wear my maroon and orange today. I will listen to Enter Sandman on my way to class. I will think about how I live for the 32 who had that chance taken away from them. If there was ever a nation that could handle tragedy, it is Virginia Tech. I wish I had the blog post Adam wrote after Officer Crouse's shooting last year because he put it beautifully (of course, he's an author). Virginia Tech was not built on an ancient indian burial ground and it is not cursed. Virginia Tech is resilient and looks out for their own and everyone around them. The Hokie Nation understands pain more than most and uses that to comfort others in need. They embody community in every sense of the word. I was blessed to start my college experience at Virginia Tech and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a Cavalier the University of Virginia now. I like to think my struggles will all pay off and I know that I have the support of my friends as I find my way.
Next year I will still be a Cavalier at the University of Virginia, K will be a Patriot at George Mason University, and N will be a Hokie at Virginia Tech. We will be spread across the great state of Virginia, but when we get together on game day, it will be in Blacksburg. We may be a house divided, but we are all a part of Hokie Nation.
After writing this, I had N read it for me, and we chatted about what the Hokie Nation means to us. I wanted to include his thoughts on the subject:
At the end of the day, I am blessed to be a part of the Hokie Nation, a great nation inside the greatest nation on earth. What it means to me, is having the best community and support group. It is about being a part of something bigger than myself. Hokie Nation is without a doubt one of the greatest groups I have ever been a part of. God bless [everyone reading this], God bless the Hokie Nation, and God bless America.