Friday, April 20, 2007

Take Time

Today, casual Friday was marked with bright orange and shades of maroon.

Virginia Tech students, alumni, or families of them are everywhere in this area. While I think we've always known that VT gets a lot of its student body from Northern Virginia, we may not have realized just how many there are.

On Monday, a friend of mine, a current student, left work early to head to campus in support, suddenly relieved that he doesn't have classes on Mondays. Another was instructed by her parents to forget her classes and any gatherings in Blacksburg and come straight home. She spent Monday morning in her dorm with a stomach ache. By Wednesday, everyone I know who does or did got to VT had reported to me that they're relatively ok.

And relatively, we're not ok. I'm not, and I did not go to VT, but I know a lot of people who do or did. And I did go to college, I lived on campus. I remember feeling safe there, despite the occasional alert about a mental patient who may have found their way to campus. It was a safe place, secure. I could walk alone at night. I could leave my dorm room door wide open. I never questioned anyone wandering in the library, the dining hall, or any of the classroom buildings. I was safe there.

I think, and my VT alumni friends agree, that I felt safe because I should. The truth is, there was no reason to feel safe. Sure, you had to show your ID at the front desk of the residence halls, but there wasn't a gate, there was nothing to stop someone from running in. Or even checking themselves in. The on campus apartments didn't even have a front desk that checked ID cards. There was no special security in the classroom buildings. They were unlocked pretty much 24/7. In the dining hall, it was easy to sneak people in (not that I ever did), and no one checked at the campus center or the bookstore or the library. There were no gates to the campus itself either. In reality, it was not as secure as it felt.

It should feel safe. It should be safe.

Today, the otherwise unlikely combination of maroon and orange was everyone. People made ribbons and pins, threw together anything with the right colors, or borrowed clothes from students. VT is everywhere. And at 12:00 today, people on the phones got put on hold, keyboards stopped clicking, questions waited to be asked. For just a moment, there was no sound to hear while we spent some mental time with our friends and neighbors a few miles SouthWest.

Today, we were all Hokies.

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