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Posted at 09:43 AM ET, 12/09/2011

Va. Tech community tries to come to grips with latest tragedy

As the sun rose over the Virginia Tech campus Friday, there were few visible signs of the tragedy that had transpired the day before.

The police tape was gone and students were resuming some of their normal routines. Some jogged. Others hurried to study sessions.

But many were still grappling with what had happened.

Sara Seeba, a freshman from Salisbury, Md., was trudging across campus.

“Yesterday it seemed real. Today, it seems like a dream,” the 18-year-old said.

She said many of her friends had changed their Facebook photos to a black ribbon or images of Thursday night’s sunset. The message: God is watching over us.

Seeba spent Thursday night touching base with family and friends, letting them know she was okay.

She said students were doing what they could to support each other.

“There’s a status on Facebook that many are posting about Va. Tech,” Seeba said. “ ‘From the outside looking in, you can never understand it. From the inside looking out, you can never explain it. Blacksburg is our home. This is our family.’ ”

Her voice cracked with emotion as she said the last part.

On Thursday night, dozens of students silently gathered to mark a fresh tragedy at a campus memorial to one that has yet to fully heal.

As some folded their hands in prayer and a few cried, students lit candles and placed them in front of the 32 stone markers for those killed in the 2007 Va. Tech shootings.

The Hokie colors of orange and maroon were all around.

After a few hushed minutes, Hokie alumni Chris Mundy, 22, from Franklin County, made his way to the front of the group.

He gave a short speech and yelled: “Let’s Go!”

The crowd answered: “Hokies!”

The cheer echoed across the field that backs up to the semi-circle ring of stones.

Mundy had posted a notice about the informal gathering on Facebook about 5 p.m. A few hours later, he had more than 3,000 responses.

Kevin Burke, 21, a senior from Leesburg, then spoke, echoing the feelings of many student still grappling with the day’s events.

“The fact that this has happened twice is unfathomable,” Burke said of the shooting tragedies at the campus. “The fact that we are still paying our respects is awesome.”

In an interview, Air Force ROTC cadet Ray Periera, 20, said he was particularly touched that it was a man in uniform that was killed. He wore his blue dress uniform to the vigil.

“I felt outrage when I heard the officer was shot. That turned to deep sorrow when I heard he was dead,” the Virginia Beach resident said. “I feel like it’s only proper to pay my respects.”

Freshman Erika Koenig, 18, was in disbelief.

“People are always like, ‘Va. Tech is the safest place because nothing like 2007 could ever happen again,’ ” Koenig said. “You have to wonder: Why us?”

When asked why he attended, Jake Mleziva, an 18-year-old student from Woodbridge, was succinct: “I’m a Hokie.”

Related stories:

Ballistics show same gun used in both Va. Tech shootings

Dvorak: At Va. Tech, gunfire is amplified into unshakable curse of the Hokie



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By  |  09:43 AM ET, 12/09/2011

 
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