Memorial services are being held this weekend in Blacksburg, Va., and around the country to honor the 32 victims who lost their lives in the attacks at Virginia Tech. The remembrances come as students and faculty prepare to return to classes.
At St. Mary's Catholic Church in Blacksburg, Saturday, a special mass was held to help the congregation heal. The bishop of Richmond, Va., Francis DiLorenzo, came down to deliver a special mass of healing for this congregation, which like others here, has strong ties to Virginia Tech. They lost one of their own members in the shooting, 46-year-old Professor Kevin Granata.
DiLorenzo said he's received letters of condolence from the Catholic bishops of South Korea and a letter from Pope Benedict XVI, expressing his grief to this congregation.
"It's OK to be shocked. It's OK to grieve. It's OK to experience sorrow and loss," DiLorenzo told the congregation. "We do believe as a community that life is changed — not ended. So in the fog of emotional despair, we offer hope."
And at the drill field in the middle of campus, thousands of people dressed in orange and maroon gathered for a picnic sponsored by the university. People ate hamburgers and sat in the sun. They also visited the memorial on the edge of the field: 33 stones covered in flowers to honor all the lives lost in the attacks.
Across the street from the drill field, on the third floor of the library sat 20-year-old Kristin Matthews and her boyfriend.
Matthews was supposed to be in Norris Hall on Monday morning when the shootings happened. But she slept in and skipped class. Like other students here, it's been hard to concentrate on schoolwork. But now, it's a welcome distraction. Matthews says it is time to start classes again. She says the gunmen, Seung-Hui Cho, has already stolen so many lives, he shouldn't get to steal any more time.
"I'm glad that they're doing it sooner," Matthews said. "It's better to get back into it. I mean, if we didn't do that, than he won."
Memorial services for those who died will continue in the coming weeks. And students like Matthews who choose to finish out the school year, will do so with a new kind of conviction.