EDUCATION

Virginia Tech massacre: Five years later

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As night fell across the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, candles were lit and the pride of a campus united by tragedy once again came out.

Students, faculty and community members gathered to remember throughout the day and night. (Photo: Tom Roussey/ABC7)

Two of the people who turned out to mark five years since the Virginia Tech shooting were Joe and Mona Samaha. They come to visit this memorial on the Virginia Tech campus every April 16, one way they choose to honor their daughter Reema, who was killed while sitting in French class five years ago Monday.

"It's important that we remember her every year, and that's why we're here," Joe said.

The Centreville family says not a day goes by that they don't think of their daughter, the other victims, 32 in all, and everyone affected by this tragedy.

"She's the one who has helped me through my bad days. And it's for her that I'm living and doing my best," Mona said.

Each anniversary since the April 2007, massacre on the Virginia Tech campus, classes have been suspended for the day in memory of the students and faculty killed.

For the first time this year, the 4th-year senior class at Virginia Tech was not on campus when the shooting happened. However, for Ashleigh Waddle, a senior in 2007 who now works for the school's athletic department, the memory is still vivid.

"It's also remarkable how far we've come," she said.

Provost Mark McNamee, who chaired a committee that planned memorial events in the years after the shooting, says the return to classes reflects the lives of those slain.

The day was remembered in other ways on the Blacksburg campus, in Washington and by alumni across the country.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has issued a proclamation recognizing April 16 as Virginia Tech Remembrance Day.

At midnight on Sunday, a ceremonial candle was lit at the April 16th memorial on campus to mark this day of remembrance. The candle will remain lit until 11:59 p.m. Monday.

At 9:43 a.m., there was an official statewide moment of silence followed by the ringing of the Capitol Square bell tower in Richmond. The bell will toll once for each of the 32 people killed during Seung-Hui Cho's deadly rampage.

But many at the school say it's what happened after April 16 that made Virginia Tech what it is.

"The fact that people came together to be there for each other and be a support system for the victims, the victim's families and anyone associated with the university," Sandy Bass says.

As candles flickered and emotion bubbled on Monday night, that unity and spirit broke through with vigor.

It ended with a chant of "Let's go Hokies!"

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