Thursday, August 30, 2007

i’m a hokie.

Tomorrow, Jesse and I will make the long drive down to Blacksburg and visit Virginia Tech for the first time since before the shootings in April. And I’m scared.

I’ve always felt very secure on campus (even during those two times Jesse and I walked around campus in the middle of the night after a fun evening of drinking downtown). So, no, I am not afraid that I’m going to be some victim of crime. Crime is the last thing I expect to experience in Blacksburg.

I’ve been going to Blacksburg several times a year (during football season of course) since Jesse and I started dating. As a proud alum and football fan, Jesse makes sure we go to a couple of games a year (in fact, I’ve been to more Tech games than USC games in the last three years). I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I went to Blacksburg. I sort of expected to see a random town in the middle-of-nowhere, Virginia. However, that’s not really what I got.

What I got was a small community, nestled between nature’s most perfect offerings—the Blue Ridge Mountains and woods with beautifully long trees. It was a college town like none I had ever experienced. After all, I was a big city girl, having gone to USC, a university trapped between the smog in the sky and the freeways that create a natural boundary. L.A. could never be considered a college town.

Virginia Tech offered something so much different. While I developed a more cosmopolitan view of the world by going to USC, Jesse went to school in the comfort and solace of seclusion. Blacksburg’s isolation from the big, bad world is its greatest asset. As a result, a wonderfully close community developed and the students and alumni get to feel what it is like to be in a large family.

Blacksburg is the kind of town where people leave their doors open so they can stumble home after a night out. It’s the kind of town where people greet its newcomers with not only a friendly welcome, but often also a hug (I’ve hugged a lot of people I barely know in Blacksburg and that kind of stuff would never happen in L.A.). It’s the kind of town where the residents embrace the university and the university is more than happy to exist in the residents’ embrace. Their relationship is symbiotic in a way. The university relies on the town for its resources, and the residents rely on the university for the life and excitement that the university provides.

I am in awe of the community of Blacksburg.

Although I am not an alum, the shootings in Virginia Tech really left an impression on me. I had been to Blacksburg enough times and had met enough Hokies (some of which I consider my friends) that I too felt like I was a part of the family. My reaction to the shootings was one of deep sadness. As far away as DC, I felt the collective loss of innocence in the community. Their peaceful, tranquil campus had been turned upside down by this tragedy. The town was no longer secluded, as the media invaded and introduced the world to the community of Virginia Tech.

As the community grieved, the residents and students requested a return to seclusion. The media was no longer welcome and were urged to go back to the big cities they came from. There was a collective desire to return to normalcy in order to mourn. Sure, sympathy was pouring in from all over the world. It was appreciated. But it was now time for family.

The people of Blacksburg are probably closer than ever now. The tragedy has forever tightened the bond that holds the community together. But Virginia Tech may never return to normal. Besides, what is normal at this point? All they can do is move forward and move on. But what does that entail?

I’m scared because I know that when I go back to campus tomorrow, it will be different. Sure, the community will be closer than ever. But I fear that there will always be a cloud of sadness off in the horizon. It will serve as a reminder of what will forever be lost—a sense of normalcy, the innocence of the community, the bright futures of those whose potential will never be realized.

I don’t want to be sad this weekend. I don’t want to feel guilty for having a good time. I want to be happy. I want to enjoy the town. I want to laugh and talk with Jesse’s friends. I want to be free to cheer the Hokies on to victory against ECU.

Perhaps what I need is acceptance. Accept that Blacksburg will be different. It will be stronger. It will be closer. It will always remember.

After all, we’re still family.

3 comments:

Jilian said...

Blacksburg looks forward to your visit :)

Thanks for the great descriptions of this wonderful town. I take it for granted - it's good to read an outside view.

sunchaser said...

Great post. It sounds like a very peaceful place. It is kind of interesting that somehow it's more "shocking" and gets more news coverage if something like this happened in a place we wouldn't expect it (ie: would gang warfare violence - which to me is equally tragic - ever get the same amount of coverage?)

Anyway, hope you have fun!

PS - ECU sucks :p

lizzie said...

jilian--thanks! my visit to b-burg was fun as always! were you at the webmail tailgate at all?

sunchaser--thanks for the compliment. i had a great time! however, ECU didn't suck as much as i thought they would. they ended up being a worthy opponent.