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Virginia Tech mourns 10 years after massacre

April 17, 2017

The shooting at the southeastern university is still the deadliest school shooting in US history. It changed how schools viewed campus security and violence prevention.

10. Jahrestag des Blutbads des Virginia Techs
Image: Picture-Alliance/J. Taylor/The Winchester Star via AP

Survivors, their families, faculty and students gathered on the campus of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University over the weekend to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the deadliest school shooting in US history.

The shooter, who was a student at the university, killed two students in a dormitory before he entered a lecture hall and killed 30 students and faculty before fatally shooting himself 10 years ago this Sunday. The university, more commonly known as Virginia Tech, was in utter shock as was the rest of the US.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who was the governor of Virginia on the day of the shooting, said in a speech Sunday that day remains "the worst day of my life."

Kaine grew close to the families of the victims and kept in touch with them throughout the years following the tragedy.

"I remember saying to them, I'll never understand what you lost, because I never lost a child, a spouse, a parent or a sibling," said Kaine. "But as somebody who has grown to know the biographies and stories of each of these 32, I begin to have a sense of what the Commonwealth (of Virginia) lost, what the country lost, what the world lost on April 16, 2007."

Kaine, as well as current Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, current Virginia Tech president Timothy Sands and Charles Steger, who was president of Virginia Tech at the time of the shooting, all attended memorial events on campus Sunday. All four men walked around the permanent memorial, stopping at each one of the 32 victims' memorial stones, according to local media. McAuliffe and his daughter participated in a wreath laying ceremony at 9:43 am local time (1343 UTC), the time when the shooter started his rampage in the lecture hall.

USA Virginia Tech Erinnerungszeremonie
Current Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands (second from left), Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (second from right), with their wives, as well as former Virginia Tech president Charles Steger (far right) stand by the Virginia Tech massacre memorial SundayImage: Picture-Alliance/M. Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP

"We should reflect on the heartbreaking events that took place and use this moment to come together to ensure an incident of this magnitude never happens again in our Commonwealth," said McAuliffe in a statement.

Virginia Tech students planned events for the memorial for 18 months, according to Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski. The events included a candlelight vigil, a 3.2-mile (5.1-kilometer) remembrance run, and the lighting of the ceremonial candle. Between 10,000 and 20,000 people were expected to attend events around the university campus this weekend. Virginia state flags were lowered to half-mast out of respect for the victims on Sunday.

After the shooting

The shooting raised serious debate about how schools across the US should prepare for a potential shooting, and what can be done to prevent further massacres in schools.

A survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre has been working to make tougher gun ownership laws in the wake of the tragedy. The shooter was allowed to purchase firearms that he used in the massacre, despite undergoing psychiatric treatment. The shooter had mental health problems, including severe depression and selective mutism, an anxiety disorder which prevents one from speaking normally. A national law following the Virginia Tech shooting to encourage sending medical reports to the FBI, but was not mandatory, was put in place. 

An expert on gun violence and mental health told DW in 2015 that school shootings were"becoming increasingly frequent and increasingly horrific."
Some universities have allowed students and faculty to carry firearms on campus in order to prevent further mass shootings.

kbd/kl (AP, Roanoke Times)