Tragedy hits especially close to home for FHS grad

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2007

To the Editor:

Like many of you, I watched the events unfold in Blacksburg on April 16 with unspeakable sadness and absolute disbelief. Unlike many of you, however, I actually watched the events from Blacksburg.

I am a 1993 Franklin High School graduate, and I graduated from Virginia Tech in 1997. Now, all these years later, I’m back in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech finishing up my doctorate in civil and environmental engineering. Nothing could ever have prepared me for what has happened.

It would have been difficult enough to be a Tech graduate who is living out of the immediate area or to know people who went here or to simply watch the news footage with no personal connection. It would have been even worse to be a student here and not personally know any of the victims. Sadly, I knew 10 of the 32 victims; they were all in my graduate program.

On that Monday morning, we lost one professor and nine graduate students and became the single hardest-hit program in the entire university. All of these victims were in an advanced hydrology course on the second floor of Norris Hall.

After being so intensely immersed in the chaos, I left Blacksburg on Thursday morning and returned to Franklin to visit my parents. I’ve never thought of Franklin as a sanctuary — I never had any reason to think of it as such — but that’s what it became.

As someone who is experiencing all of this first-hand, I can’t begin to relate to you how touching it was to see the signs of support across the entire state as we drove down 460 on the way home.

Upon venturing into town on Friday, I saw that everyone was either wearing maroon and orange or wearing their ribbons to show support. There were also words of encouragement and support on billboards and in shop windows. What an incredible outpouring.

The university, and my graduate program in particular, have a long road ahead of us. In the coming weeks, the funerals will be behind us, the media vans finally will have left, and we will remain in Blacksburg.

I don’t believe for a second that any actions different from those that were taken by the university would have saved lives or changed the outcome. This person, regardless of how disturbed he may have been, was a student walking among us and only would have found different victims.

There have been letters of gratitude written on behalf of the Virginia Tech alumni, but please allow me to say that the prayers that you all are pouring out truly can be felt here in the Blacksburg community, and there are not enough words to express our gratitude.

Amy K. Cheatham


In memory of my friends: Brian Roy Bluhm, Matthew Gregory Gwaltney, Jeremy Michael Herbstritt, Jarrett Lee Lane, G.V. Loganathan, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan, Daniel Patrick O’Neil, Juan Ramon Ortiz-Ortiz, Julia Kathleen Pryde and Waleed Mohamed Shaalan