Virginia Tech Students Return to Class

Students are back in class at Virginia Tech, one week after 33 people died on the Blacksburg, Va., campus in a barrage of gunfire blamed on a student.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

This morning in Blacksburg, Virginia, a bell rang out at 9:45.

(Soundbite of bell ringing)

COHEN: That bell rang 32 times, once for each victim shot by a gunman a week ago on the campus of Virginia Tech. NPR's Noah Adams joins us now from Blacksburg. Noah, tell me a little bit about what happened on the campus this morning.

NOAH ADAMS: It was a very elegant ceremony here on the drill field, the vast green expanse right at the center of campus. And no one was going to speak. We knew the bells were going to ring, but we didn't know what else was going to happen. We knew the big ceremonial bell was going to ring.

At 9:45 precisely, they rang the bell the first time. And a student - there were 32 students assembled - and they were holding white balloons, helium balloons, and each time the bell would ring in honor of those killed, a student would release one of those white balloons and it would fly up into the sky and off to the north. And people would watch it until it go out of sight. And then after that, which was very moving, they released a thousand of the maroon and orange balloons. And they went up into the sky and chased high into the sky to the north those white balloons that had been sent up in honor of the students. It was really quite moving.

And then, as you might expect, someone yelled, let's go. And somebody else in the crowd, and then the whole crowd yelled Hokies. Let's go Hokies.

COHEN: Noah, I imagine the mood's rather somber there, but what about the day itself? What's the weather been like there in Blacksburg?

ADAMS: You know, it's a great day - glorious spring day. Temperature is going to be in the 80s, and that's the way it was this weekend. There was a little bit of festivity amid the somberness here of the weekend, and people were out playing football and Frisbee and there was free food available on the drill field. We went to a women's softball game, and the Hokie women won here. Here's one of the key plays.

(Soundbite of softball being hit)

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

(Soundbite of siren)

ADAMS: So that was great to see, how the Hokies swept a double header Saturday against Maryland. They're first place in the ACC.

COHEN: What about other spring sports on campus? Will they continue this semester?

ADAMS: The spring sports have continued. They will keep playing. Final exams are May 9th, and then the commencement, and then it will all be over with. And yesterday at our motel, at the breakfast room, I saw a young man and his mom and dad, and then I saw a coach come in. The coach turned out to be a wrestling coach. And this was T.J. Mitchell. He's being recruited to be a Hokie wrestler. He'd come from New Jersey. He was making the campus visit, saw no reason to cancel it. And I talked with him about what the coach had told him.

Mr. T.J. MITCHELL (Student): He really wants to make me a Hokie. And I'd get a good education, you know, have a good time wrestling and it would just be a good time. I saw the campus and met some of the people. And I started to feel more comfortable here. People here, you know, kind of become a family and, you know, they really kind of band together and they take pride in their school.

ADAMS: That's T.J. Mitchell. He wrestled in high school at 125 pounds.

COHEN: Might T.J. wind up to be a future Hokie?

ADAMS: A future Hokie? Well, three other schools are looking at him. He'll see some other campuses, but I think he likes it here, and he says he really wants to help.

COHEN: NPR's Noah Adams in Blacksburg, Virginia. Thanks so much, Noah.

ADAMS: You're welcome.

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