Note from 360° Producer Kay Jones: A year ago, I went to the memorial at Cassell Coliseum on the campus at Virginia Tech, and afterward met up with student Andy Koch and his friend and former suitemate John Eide. They had agreed to tell us about Seung-Hui Cho, who hours earlier had been identified as the shooter in the Virginia Tech Massacre. After about an hour of conversation, they agreed to go on camera and tell their story to Gary Tuchman.
I have kept in touch with Andy, and recently asked him to blog about how his life has changed the past year. You can read that below, and watch Gary Tuchman’s interview with Andy and John from April 17, 2007... one day after 32 people were killed by Cho.
Former roomate of VA Tech shooter
It doesn’t seem like a year has past since last April. I have experienced a whole range of emotions from guilt, sadness, anger and disbelief. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the thirty-two lives lost that day.
Last April has changed me along with others in good and bad ways. It has an already close campus even closer. It has also robbed many people of their innocence. Before April 16th most students went about their day with out any worries. I can say for myself that when I go in to classrooms I now think about how I would protect myself in the event if something similar happened again. I was not even in Norris that day and I think about these things. I have wondered if some of these feelings will fade over time when I graduate this May and am no longer around Virginia Tech everyday.
Today there are reminders all over campus of that day. Whenever I walk on the drillfield and see the memorial I think of those who were lost. Walking by Norris I think about the senseless violence that occurred there. Going near the dining halls around Ambler Johnston makes me think of Emily Hilscher and Ryan Clark. Most of the time I think of the families of the victims and how tragic it is that their loved ones were ripped away from them with no warning. It makes me sick to my stomach ever time. It is a paralyzing feeling. It is hard to think about what these families are going through themselves.
I have seen campus divided by issues that have arisen from last April. Currently there is a debate over whether or not gun owners with concealed weapons should be allowed to carry their weapons on campus. Some think that if people had been allowed to carry weapons on campus we would have avoided this tragedy. It is hard to say if this is true. This is a solution to having an active shooter on campus, but not the answer. We should be looking for ways to stop shooters before they even get the guns in their hands. The debate should focus on closing gun loopholes and improving the mental health of people that are at risk. Keeping guns out of these people’s hands will make the argument about concealed weapons moot.
Certain events have helped bring some closure to last April 16th. The start of football season was a welcome return to normalcy. It was unbelievable to see all of Virginia Tech’s athletic teams go out and compete in honor of those lost. The concert put on the Dave Matthews Band was also a positive experience. It brought everyone together, but at the same time reminded us why we were there. Hopefully more closure will come over the years, but I will never forget about those lost.
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I was in Chicago over spring break and I came across a young man with his Mom and Dad. He was wearing a VT tee shirt. I thought that he was probably lucky that day and was not in those classrooms. How sad was that. He should be able to go to college without fear, and study to be the best he can be-without fear. I hope and pray that Virginia Tech has a great year and can put everything else behind them.
When I heard about the Virginia Tech shooting it hit very close to home. I live on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and you can't walk into my high school without seeing more than a handful of students decked out in Virginia Tech apparel. I'm 17 and about to go to college and i think even the thought of having guns on campus is preposterous. The idea that any teenage frat boy could have a gun on him terrifies me instead of making me feel safe which defeats the purpose. I, for one, would rather not attend college at all than to put my life in danger by being surrounded by potential murder machines.
Sometimes, we surprise even ourselves with the strength and courage we hold within. Especially during times of such tragedy that are indelibly etched into our hearts and souls. Yes the pain wanes, the fear eventually subsides, but these events are never forgotten and change our vision of the world around us. I have realized at this point in my life that everyday we are either a teacher or a student, sometimes both in the same day. After your graduation, you will see this as well.
God Bless all who were touched by this tragedy.
My thoughts and prayers are with the VA Tech community. In my experience we don't ever get over something so horrific. We just get through it eventually. Healing takes time, love, and support from those close to us, from complete strangers, and sometimes from the professionals who can help us heal in ways we can't on our own. One of my former mentors from MS State became Dean of Students at VA Tech during the mid-1990's. Her descriptions there led me to believe it was a pretty amazing place. Amazing schools and students can survive anything. Your school and student body are no exception.