In the hours after last week’s massacre at Virginia Tech, South Lakes High School faculty knew that all 26 of its 2006 graduates who attend the university were safe. Word would later trickle down that all of the school’s alumni at Tech were accounted for.
"That was a pretty neat gesture," said Lindsay Trout, assistant director of student activities at South Lakes. "That was comforting, to know that our kids are safe."
Trout and other staff at the school learned about the fate of their former students from e-mails sent from those students at the university. Unfortunately, some of the neighboring schools did lose their former students in the shootings. South Lakes students and faculty joined in the day of remembrance for those schools and the victims. "This is a close-knit community and that was really very evident last week," said Trout. "It was a tragedy whether you were close to anybody affected or not."
To commemorate the victims of the shootings, the Seahawks became Hokies last Friday. Students wore maroon and orange to school, distributed beads of same colors and signed a huge banner bearing the Tech colors. There was also a minute of silence for the victims. "A lot of the faculty was involved, too," said Trout.
The tragedy has brought Virginia schools together. Some of Trout’s students who are University of Virginia fans, and disliked Virginia Tech because of the rivalry between the schools, became Virginia Tech fans. "Everybody is just rooting for them," said Trout about Virginia Tech students. "We all just want them to get smiles back on their faces," said Trout.
WHILE HIGH SCHOOL students found ways to express condolence to the Hokie Nation on Friday, other Restonians chimed in as well. Local politicians spoke at Reston Association’s annual board meeting on Tuesday night, less than 36 hours after the shootings in Norris Hall occurred. Those who attended the meeting were still in the state of shock. The victims were honored with a moment of silence.
"The American community is shocked," said Gerry Connolly (D), chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He sent condolences to the victims of the tragedy, the family of the perpetrator and the greater Virginia Tech community. Connolly said college campuses are supposed to be safe havens for students, and that he had a difficult time, as a father, watching the events at Virginia Tech unfold. "It is a terrible reminder that none of us are immune from violence," said Connolly.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families," said Jennifer Blackwell, president of the RA board of directors.
State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) said the events at Virginia Tech should force lawmakers to question some policies and procedures. "The last two days have been absolutely horrible," said Howell. "It is shocking how very close to home this is." Howell added it is important that everyone in the community feels valued and valuable. She found some comfort in the fact she was in Reston on that Tuesday night. "Despite my sorrow, I’m so glad to be home," said Howell. "It’s getting back to reality, to people who are centered."