Each stone sits there every day as thousands of students walk by. Thirty-two stones. Thirty-two of them. They watch us laugh and run by. They watch us ride our bikes by, totally carefree. They watch as the whole line of Blacksburg transit carries thousands of students by each day. They are stuck. We are free.
I can’t believe this has happened to us. I can’t believe it. It is unimaginable. I remember columbine. I was young. I was dumb. I thought, oh what are a few lives lost in the thousands lost each day? I thought, no big deal.
I saw those balloons rise into the sky. Thirty-two white balloons danced into the heavens. We hokies watched as thirty-two of our own danced away out of our grasp. Thirty-two of them. Too many balloons for me to count before they were gone.
The representative for each stone lined up. I looked and saw thirty-two of them. Thirty-two of them. They all stood there and the number thirty-two came to meaning. There were thirty-two living breathing souls standing there.
No longer was this thirty-two a number written on a running bib, or a collection of stones, or candles. No longer was it just a number. Thirty-two humans died by the hand of one man on April 16, 2007. Thousands of students, alumni, families, and caring people’s lives were forever changed by one man’s rage.
AIDS, cancer, genocide, 9-11, tsunami, hurricane, sniper. Columbine, neVer forgeT.
I’m tired. I’m tired of this. I’m scared and I’m tired. So I stand there, watching thousands of candles being brought above head to symbolize our strength and resilience. I stand there, fighting tears for people I never knew. I stand there wondering, are there others who feel this scared? Are there others who are so uncertain about life right now? Is everyone faking it. Is everyone faking being carefree? Or has everyone else figured something out that I have not. My sharp dress is to cover up my feelings.
I remember the Blacksburg sunset. I remember feeling like the world was a puzzle that was complete. I remember the movie Elf, and Finding Nemo, and It’s a Wonderful Life. I remember everything working out in the end.
But now I feel it’s a big mess and the pieces are scattered everywhere. I remember the thirty-two. And they are gone. And I am still here to interpret what happened.