BLACKSBURG, Va. — As twilight descended upon Virginia Tech on Monday night. the names of the 32 victims of the 2007 massacre were read aloud, along with snippets of information about the rich lives they lived. With each name, another candle was lit.
Among those remembered: Caitlin Millar Hammaren, a dedicated resident assistant with a “contagious smile.” Waleed Mohamed Shaalan, an Egyptian student and father who was “the simplest and nicest guy.” Leslie Geraldine Sherman, “an inspiring young woman who could do it all and excel.” G.V. Loganathan, a “kind, gentle, wise” professor who “patiently taught the most difficult courses.”
Soon 32 candles burned brightly. Those candles were then used to light the thousands of candles held by those gathered on the Drillfield to remember those killed in the nation’s most deadly campus shooting five years ago on April 16, 2007.
“The passage of five years has done nothing to diminish our great sorrow,” Va. Tech President Charles W. Steger said earlier in the evening. “The world has seen and marveled at the resiliency of the Virginia Tech family, and I ask you to continue to be strong.”
As the warm glow of candlelight spread, an a capella choir sang “Fields of Gold.” I never made promises lightly, and there have been some that I have broken, but I swear in the days still left, we will walk in fields of gold.
Earlier in the evening, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell spoke of light and darkness as he urged the orange-and-maroon-clad crowd to learn from the tragedy and to support each other: “You’ve chosen not to curse the darkness but to light a candle. Embrace the light.”
By the time all of the candles were lit, it was past 8:30 p.m. and stars appeared in the darkened sky above. Then came the haunting sound of a bugle playing taps.
As the candlelight vigil ended, someone shouted: “Let’s go!” The crowd responded: “Hokies!”
The chant continued on and on, over and over, even as the crowd began to disperse into the night.