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What Happened 14 Years Ago Is Ingrained In All Of Us

I had a bad day yesterday.

I won’t get into the details — we all have our own issues that we deal with on a regular basis. Sometimes we handle it well. Sometimes we don’t. At 26 years old, I’ve been through my fair share of good times and bad, and yesterday wasn't a good one. So as I sat there on Thursday night, I threw back a strong cocktail and tried to make sense of it all.

Then I looked at the date — April 15.

April 16 holds a special place in my heart, as it does for anyone and everyone associated with Virginia Tech. I was just 13 years old when 32 Hokies were taken from us on that tragic day, but I knew well what was happening. As a kid who’d been raised a tried-and-true Hokie, it was pretty devastating.

I've spent 14 years now grieving for those 32 families as well as the others on campus who escaped unscathed.

But to be real, they were unscathed in name only. They will carry what happened on April 16, 2007 for the rest of their lives and will never be able to truly escape.

For 14 years now, the Virginia Tech community, and to an extent the Commonwealth and the country, have spent this day in mourning. The three years I was a student at Tech, I spent the few minutes before midnight on April 16 and the next hour or so afterwards standing outside huddled around the memorial in front of Burruss Hall with my Hokie brothers and sisters, all of us mourning the loss of those 32. Through the rain, the stinging wind that whips across the Drillfield on an April night in Blacksburg, we stood silently as each of the 32 names were read aloud. We walked through the memorial, spending time at each stone, trying to make sense of what had happened.

What happened on April 16 is now ingrained in who I am. It’s probably ingrained in who you are, too. It’s become a part of who we are. Even if you weren’t there on April 16, you feel like you were.

That burden can be something more though: it can be a gift. The gift of perspective.

The way I see it, whatever we’re going through in life isn’t of small circumstance. They’re real problems. Whether it’s financial issues, issues you’re having with your significant other, health issues — these are all serious problems in our lives. It’s okay to be emotional about them.

But at the end of the day, we need to put things in perspective.

Thirty-two different families are going to spend the entirety of today — and probably the remainder of their lives — grieving the loss of a loved one. Their angel isn’t coming back to this life.

So when you’re sitting down and reflecting on those things that are frustrating you, be sure to spend the final few minutes putting things in perspective. I had a bad day yesterday, no doubt. But I'll also spent most of today remembering those 32 and why I wouldn't want to be anything other than a Hokie.

While I'm not a part of those 32 families grieving the loss of a loved one today, I will grieve with them. I'll forever remember them and I'll strive to never let my personal problems make me lose sight of what is important in this fragile and sacred life.

Spend today evaluating your life. Take inventory of the bad. Feel those emotions. And then, put them into perspective.

Grab a loved one, remind them how much they mean to you. Talk to your fellow Hokies and laugh about the good times. And grieve for the bad times.

April 16 will be a part of my psyche for the rest of my life. I’m thankful for that because of the perspective it provides. The world could use a little more of that.

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Tuesday, 18 May 2021
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