- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2008

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Holly Sherman, whose daughter, Leslie, died in the Virginia Tech massacre, returned to the campus yesterday to mark the first anniversary of the shootings and say she is ready to let go of her grief.

“For this full year we felt sadness,” said Mrs. Sherman, who thinks that is exactly what shooter Seung-hui Cho intended when he fatally shot 32 classmates and faculty. “But you know what, I want my joy back. So I am going to try to bring joy back to my family, to my life and to the life of everybody around me so he doesn’t win.”

Mrs. Sherman was among the thousands of students, friends, families, faculty and others who came to the close-knit, bucolic campus in southwest Virginia for the Day of Remembrance.

  • Photo Gallery: (A Day of Remembrance at Virginia Tech)

    “While the passage of time has helped us in many ways, we remain profoundly and deeply saddened by the events of that tragic day,” university President Charles W. Steger told those who attended the ceremony on the sprawling, grassy commons known as the Drillfield. “We know intently what the people we lost meant to us. And we are more keenly aware of how they touched and changed our lives.”

    The crowd — many of whom wore the school colors of maroon and orange and ‘We are Virginia Tech’ shirts — listened quietly as the names of the victims and their epitaphs were read aloud.

    An emergency medical team had to assist a young woman who fell to the ground in grief.

    Mary Karen Read, of Annandale, was remembered as “deeply faithful” and somebody who “relished being a big sister” and was “always happiest helping others.”

    Reema Samaha, of Centreville, the reader said, was “exceptionally close to her parents and siblings,” and “embraced her Lebanese heritage.”

    Gov. Tim Kaine told the crowd he feels sorrow for the victims’ families, pride in the university’s resiliency and “a sense of lost promise.”

    “The world was cheated on April 16, a year ago,” said Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, “cheated out of the accomplishments sure to come from these extraordinary lives.”

    The governor also said the shootings and the first anniversary serves as a painful reminder of the “brevity of life” and should encourage people to think about how being “fully human” is measured by “our service to others.”

    Throughout the day, mourners passed through the semicircle memorial of granite block bearing the names of the victims, leaving flowers and shedding tears. Behind the memorial is Norris Hall, the engineering building where Cho killed 30 of his victims before killing himself.

    “The Hokie nation is a spirit that is unconquerable, that exists at this university and beyond the university,” said Omar Samaha, a Tech graduate and older brother of Reema. “It lives in the soul and heart of every single person who has some type of connection — or has been touched by the type of connection we have to this university. I feel that today more than most days.”

    As some looked for closure and others looked for meaning, the day could not escape the growing pressure on elected officials to tighten gun-control laws.

    Roughly 60 people, primarily family and friends of the victims, took part in a planned, three minute “lie-in,” one of 80 across the country, as part of a protest calling on federal and state lawmakers to close the so-called gun show loophole, which allows people to purchase firearms from unlicensed sellers at gun shows without having to submit to background checks.

    “Let our legislators know how we feel,” said Lori Haas, whose daughter, Emily, was shot twice but survived. “They can close the gun show loophole and they will if they let our voices be heard.”

    Three minutes, the protesters said, is the typical time it takes a licensed gun seller to conduct a background check on a customer.

    Joseph Painter, a Blacksburg-based criminal law attorney, stood nearby with a sign that read “Brady Go Home Show some Respect,” in opposition to the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence, an anti-gun movement.

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