Governor Tim Kaine
Virginia Tech Memorial Address
delivered 17 April 2007
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
What an amazing community this is.
Mr. President and Mrs. Bush and to all who are part of this Virginia Tech community in this room, on this campus, worldwide today: It is a very bitter and sad day, and yet my wife Anne and I are very privileged to be here with you, and there is nowhere else in the world we would rather be than with you at this moment.
As Charlie [Steger, Virginia Tech University president] mentioned, Anne and I had left on Sunday morning from Richmond to go on a two-week trade mission to Asia. One of the events is actually an event in India to spotlight a wonderful program of Virginia Tech. We had been in Tokyo in the hotel for about five hours and we were awakened with a call about one in the morning to report the horrible tragedy on this campus, and we were stunned. And our first thought was that we need to get home -- we need to be in Blacksburg, with this community that -- that we care so much about.
We had the experience then of being up in the middle of the night and not being able to get home for about 10 hours. And so we did what people all across the world had been doing in the last couple of days. We sat there first in our hotel room and then in a coffee shop and then in an airport waiting lounge with the television on, watching to get news about what was happening on this campus and how the campus was handling it.
It was different being away from home, being half-way across the world, and seeing what was happening on this campus, and what you, you students were showing to the world. And even in the midst of the darkest day in the history of this campus, what you showed to the world yesterday -- you students -- was an amazing thing.
Again, and again, and again, in all these various news outlets, students were called forward to offer their thoughts and asked what they thought about their campus and how they were dealing with this tragedy. And the grief was real and very raw and the -- the questions were deep and troubling, but again and again what students came back to, wearing the Virginia Tech sweatshirts, wearing the Virginia Tech caps, was the incredible community spirit, and the sense of unity here on this campus and -- and -- how before it was about who was to blame or what could have been done different -- it was about how we take care of each other on this wonderful, wonderful community. How proud we were, even in the midst of a sad day, to see how well you represented yourselves and this university to a world-wide community.
There are deep emotions that are called forth by a tragedy as significant as this; grieving and sadness by the boatload. Anne and I have unashamedly shed tears about this and I know virtually all of you have as well. That is the...the thing you should be doing. You should be grieving. There are resources here on this campus and others who are on this campus to help you as you find need for consolation that is so important.
A second reaction -- that is a natural reaction -- is anger, anger at the gunman, anger at the circumstance. What could have been done different? Could something have happened? That's natural as well. One of the most powerful stories in the human history of stories is that great story central to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity: the story of Job from the Old Testament, afflicted with -- with all kinds of tragedies in his family and health, and he -- and he was angry. He was angry at his circumstances. He was angry at his Creator. He argued with God. He didn't lose his faith. But it's okay to argue. It's okay to be angry. Those emotions are natural as well.
And finally the emotions of the family members most affected, beyond grief -- losing a son, losing a daughter, a brother, a sister, losing a close friend. It can go beyond grief to isolation and feeling despair. Those haunting words that were uttered on a hill on Calvary: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Despair is a natural emotion at a time like this. They're all natural. They're all appropriate. But let me ask one thing of you, this community, as you wrestle with your sadness, as you wrestle with your own feelings of anger, or confusion; as you wrestle with the despair, even you family members who have lost people close to you: Do not -- Do not let hold [go] of that spirit of community that makes Virginia Tech such a special place. Do not lose hold of that.
You need it as a university because you've always had it. You need to maintain it. We do not need that spirit of community to be a victim of yesterday. No, you need that.
You, as a community unified together -- there is so much you can do for these family members to help bear them up, to help them deal with their grief. If you are unified there is an incalculable amount you can do to help the family members and friends deal with the loss.
We need in Virginia that spirit of community that you have here. We're bold enough to call ourselves, not a state, but a Commonwealth. A state is a dotted line; a state is a political subdivision. Commonwealth has a meaning. The meaning is what we have, the God-given and man-made resources that we have, we hold in common for a community. And you at Virginia Tech can be that community and demonstrate that community for us in a way that will benefit the entire -- entire Virginia.
And finally, I would say to you from having that vantage point of hearing about this on the other side of the world: It's not just you that need to maintain the spirit -- the world needs you to, because the world was watching you yesterday. And in the darkest moment in the history of this university, the world saw you and saw you respond in a way that built community.
I was reminded in the airport as we got ready to board to come back -- I've seen this story before. I've turned on the television and seen the bad news of a shooting, or a weather emergency, or a famine. I've seen these stories -- and there will be more stories. But there was something in the story yesterday that was different -- and it was you. Your spirit of -- even in a dark day -- of optimism and community and hope, and wanting to be together. And you taught something good yesterday, even in a dark day, to people all around the world. And the world needs that example before it.
And so I pledge to do all I can, President Steger, and to the members of the community and my team as well, to be with you in these coming days, to be along side of you in difficult times as we sort through and try to work with families and friends. You have a remarkable community here; just look around and see this, and see the thousands of students next door.
This is a remarkable place. Do not let hold [go] of that sense of community which is so powerful in this room.
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Page Updated: 8/3/18
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