This article about the beginning of the new school year at Virginia Tech incorrectly said that student Sharifa Felix would take a civil engineering class at Norris Hall, where 30 people were killed in an April 16 massacre. Felix said she would be attending her instructor's office hours in the building.
RETURN TO CAMPUS
In Their Own Ways, Students Move On
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
For Ashley Simmons, the biggest worry was how to fit a futon and two beds into a room the size of a one-car garage.
For Bakhtiyor Eshmatov, it was how classes might differ in the United States compared with his native Uzbekistan.
Sharifa Felix wondered whether she would make it down her to-do lists this year. She tends to stop at the second or third item.
Despite a carbon monoxide leak in an off-campus apartment complex that sent nearly two dozen people to hospitals and left one student in critical condition, the Virginia Tech community began the fall semester yesterday trying to look forward. Few talked about William Morva, an inmate who allegedly killed two men during an escape last year, leading to a manhunt that shut down the campus. Nor did conversations dwell on Seung Hui Cho, the student gunman who killed 32 people April 16 and then committed suicide.
Instead, freshmen tried not to look lost. Upperclassmen strolled casually and confidently among the Gothic-style stone buildings. And on the Drillfield, at the center of campus, students sold posters, raffled a boogie board and played corn hole, which is exactly as it sounds: a game in which one tries to throw a small bag of corn through a hole.
When anyone referred to the shootings, the deadliest individual rampage in modern U.S. history, they condensed it to the date -- "4/16," swift and simple, like "9/11."
"I'm ready for a new start," Maima Radcliffe said. "It would be nice if Virginia Tech could put this behind. . . . I want to put it behind me."
The 21-year-old senior said she hoped the university would remember the victims -- the 32 killed by gunman Seung Hui Cho and dozens more who were injured -- but not overdo the memorial services throughout the year. Thirty-two stones, each weighing 300 pounds, sit on the Drillfield as a promise of remembrance in a memorial dedicated Sunday. Campus workshops are planned with such titles as "Identifying and Referring the Distressed Student" and "Pathways to Resilience -- From Surviving to Thriving."
"I'll show my respects, but I don't want to think back to that day," Radcliffe said.
That was a common sentiment across campus. Charles Bostian, a professor at the university for 39 years, said he did not feel the need to mention past events when he opened classes.
"Everyone is certainly conscious of what happened and the tragedy of what was lost," he said. "In one sense, what can you do? I lost people that I knew. Other people lost people closer to them. Each of us is trying to do what we think is right, what works for us."
Counselors stood ready on the Drillfield and at the student center to talk to anyone who needed it. There was also a more prominent police presence than usual. State police officers assisted for the day, and the local police department modified schedules to increase patrols. The university also launched VT Alerts, an emergency notification system that allows officials to contact students, staff and faculty through text messaging, phone and e-mail. As of yesterday, 14,862 people had signed up.