By Delphine Schrank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 8, 2007
Virginia Tech announced plans yesterday to replace a temporary memorial to victims of the April 16 massacre with a semicircle of 32 stones, each etched with a name of one of those killed in the attack.
Construction will begin immediately on the 16-inch, upright "Hokie Stones" in a semicircle of crushed gravel on the Drillfield in front of Burruss Hall, the university's main administrative building, and is due to be completed by the fall semester, the university said in a statement.
The stones, with names etched by laser into angled tops and rimmed on either side by a walking path and a row of shrubs, will remain until a permanent memorial is erected elsewhere.
"It's an intermediate stage," said Tom Tillar, vice president of alumni relations, who chaired a memorial planning committee. "We envisaged this so there would never be a time for there not to be a memorial for mourners."
In the days and weeks after student Seung Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty members before shooting himself, various memorials and expressions of solidarity have sprung up on Web sites and on campus. Students built one ad hoc shrine in front of Burruss Hall, with an arc of 32 evenly spaced stones drawn from the university's own limestone quarry. Someone later added a 33rd for Cho.
Mourners have since deposited photos, candles and flowers over the stones, which Tillar said would be presented to the families when the memorial is complete.
After considering location and design options, the 10-person committee decided to elaborate on the students' creation, Tillar said. It settled on a refined design of stones just tall enough to emerge above the flowers, cards and other memorabilia now in place. The cost, not expected to exceed $25,000, will be covered by donations.
The committee did not include a stone for Cho. "It is a victims' memorial," Tillar said.
In the next few months, the university will convene an advisory committee for the design and construction of a permanent memorial, a process expected to take at least three years. University President Charles W. Steger will consider holding a juried design competition that could involve students or alumni architects, the statement added.
Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations, said some have suggested a shrine on the west end of the Drillfield, directly opposite a memorial to the east that honors Virginia Tech students who have fallen during wartime.