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Living for 32: LIFE after 4/16 at Virginia Tech

Author’s Note: There are some things in life we’ll never really understand why they happened. I’m not sure why I decided to write this piece.. it just sort of happened.. but I think part of it was to try to make sense of it all. I send my deepest respects and love to the family and friends of the 32 and my Hokies.

This year, the date or 4/16 just so happens to land on a Saturday… What if a few years back in 2007 4/16 had been on a Saturday? Maybe everything could have been different. We wouldn’t have had class that day, nobody would have been in the wrong place at the wrong time… nobody would have died.

If 4/16 had been a Saturday fate could have changed itself and something could have happened to make it so that boy never entered into that college dorm room or those classrooms and did what he did… took 32 brilliant, amazing people from this earth.

I don’t talk about 4/16 much. When people ask me, “Oh wow… You were there? What was it like?” I always give them this numb response as if I were reading them a paragraph that summed those hours up in poorly written newspaper.

But I decided that today I’d talk about it a little bit because I think we far too easily forget to celebrate life, and sometimes it’s remembering stories like this that humbles us to realize just how lucky we are to be here and just how fast that privilege can be taken away.

For those of you who aren’t all that up to date, 4/16 was the day these shots were heard around the world. That morning a young boy who had been plotting this for months stormed up to the 4th floor of a dorm room and shot a girl and the boy that came to her rescue. He then walked across the entire campus, walked into Norris Hall, chained the building entrance doors, and then proceeded to open fire in classrooms. He killed himself when he was finished.

32 students and teachers were taken that day.

I remember later that night…or maybe it was the following night… it was all such a blur… the entire campus met on the drill field for a candlelight ceremony. I remember seeing endless people kneeling on the ground next to mountains of flowers and letters crying and pleading. I remember experiencing being in a group of thousands of people who are all feeling the same thing, questioning the same things, searching for the same answers. I remember feeling one of the deepest senses of togetherness I’ve ever felt in my life.

They closed down Norris Hall. They cancelled class the rest of the semester. We left and went to visit our family and friends back home, and endlessly answered people’s questions when they asked us what it was like and if we knew anyone.

I never felt so far away than those few weeks I wasn’t at my school after the shooting. At least everyone there was feeling and going through the same thing.

But I do remember those couple weeks I was back at home I’ve never loved my friends and family so much. We are so lucky to have the people whom we love in our lives. When you think about it… they can be taken from us at any moment.

I used to think about how my Spanish class got cancelled in Noriss Hall that morning and how I might have been there.

What if he had chained those doors a little later or a little earlier? What if he had chosen a different building? What if it was a Saturday? What if somebody had stopped him? What if he had picked a different floor? What if he had picked a different classroom? What if one of my closest friends had been one of he 32? What if…

I guess no matter what happens in life, big small, bad good… playing the “what if” game doesn’t really ever work. It all just comes down to fate. What’s meant to be will inevitably be… as unfair as that sounds right now.

Sometimes I feel like it’s selfish to try to find good in what happened. How could anybody possibly say something good could come of something so terrible? But I think we owe it to them to try because that’s what they would want.

So, I thought maybe I could write a post about what happened and talk about it a bit. I thought maybe this story might inspire someone reading this whose been stuck in a rut or on the verge of making a bad decision or just tired and drained from living. I thought maybe I’d write about it and some good could come of it.

I thought maybe it would remind us to not take for granted the fact that we are ALIVE.

And because of that very simple, fundamental notion – that we are, in fact, alive – we should – not because we want to but because it is our privilege- do everything in our power to truly LIVE our lives… to make a difference… to be who we are meant to be… to make the world a better place… to love each other unconditionally.. to truly FEEL and BE and SEE.

Because without your life… you can’t do that. And because without truly living your life… you can’t do that.

Maybe tonight, when the sun is setting, you can go ahead and light a candle outside of your window, and think a little bit about how amazing it is that you are ALIVE. And think about all the bigger-than-life things you have to offer this world and how you’re going to offer them.

Live for 32. neVer forgeT.

For more information on what happened and to read the stories of each of these individuals you can go to the official VT Remembers.

Live Your Life To The Fullest Every Single Day. Every Single Moment.

About Lauren Rains

Hi my name is Lauren Rains. I write about the human experience. Through thick and thin, I’m dedicated to growth, adventure, integrity, and love. The Mad To Live is based on my pursuits, experiments, research, and lessons of challenge and triumph in all areas of life, including being entrepreneur, a writer, a philosopher, a traveler, a teacher, a student, a creative, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a significant other, a stranger and the list goes on. At the end of the day, I believe human beings are here for two reasons: 1.) to love one another with total acceptance, and 2.) to see what we’re made of as we create the possibilities for an abundant life for ourselves and for others. No more bullshit, let's just enjoy our lives.

Share with me what you're getting into that matters to you. It could be stepping into entrepreneurial pursuits, embarking on a journey of the self, making a crazy life change, or even if you're totally stuck. I want to connect with, support, collaborate with, and learn from as many people as possible through this blog (that means you!) Click the *Share* link in the main menu and let's connect by filling out the form.

"What you seek is seeking you."

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  • WOW Lauren, for me, what you have shared here reveals precisely why you’re such an amazing woman. I admire your courage.

    It’s ironic how the most tragic experiences in life provide the greatest eyesight for really seeing what life is, what it means, how we fit in the a much bigger picture — all from the result of a blind part of us dying so a seeing part could replace it.

    Life is nothing more dying to self and awakening to life.

    You have so much to give the world Lauren, I’m just happy to be on this journey with you and seeing more clearly along the way.

    I love your work, it’s alive.

    • Hey Mark!
      Thank you so much for your kind and hopefull words. I really truly appreciate it 🙂
      And thanks for being on the journey with me Mark! I’m glad to be on yours too!!!
      Cheers to being ALIVE,
      Laur

  • I wasn’t there but as a graduate of nearby Hollins, it still touched me that fellow students were experiencing the unthinkable. It seems like yesterday and at the same time so long ago. It’s frustrating b/c no one can understand; we can only just hope that people like the shooter won’t be ignored on other campuses-that we can all now identify these warning signs.

    • Hey Jessica!
      Oh wow you went to Hollins? Pretty cool – we weren’t too far from each other at all! I really do truly hope that be it on a college campus, a high school, the people that work on the 4th floor of an office building etc… that we just try to pay more attention to the warning signs.. try to help those people that so desperately need that help.. before it’s too late.
      I’ll never really understand why he did what he did, but we can only learn from it form here.
      Thanks for sharing Jess. I really do appreciate it. 🙂
      Lauren

  • Hi Laur,
    Thank you for sharing this from your heart.
    There is NOTHING like death to remind us to be grateful about being alive. I am so sad about what happened and yet so thankful you were not in that building that day. Today, as I go through my day I will think of your experience and enjoy all life has to offer even more. Thank you for writing such awesome and heartfelt words and for being the amazing person that you are.

    -Bernardo

    • Hey Bern!
      Thank you so much for your caring comment. I appreciate it so much and it means a lot to me. I’m so happy to know someone like you that truly appreciates the gift of life – not just that – but you’re also teaching and inspiring others to do the same as well 🙂
      Thanks Bernardo,
      Un abrazo,
      Laur 🙂

  • Death is always a wake up call, but death of this magnitude and so close to home? I have no idea what that must be like. Thank you Laur, for sharing your memories and even your questions of that day. It is up to us to truly FEEL and BE and SEE. I will carry this reminder with me.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment Sandi. I hope too that when I seem to be taking life for granted I can come back to this post and this memory and keep it with me as a reminder to never stop feeling, being and seeing 🙂
      – Lauren

  • Wow. An amazing reminder. I definitely remember it happening, and though I was long graduated I too had that rush of “it could have been me.” I was an engineering student for several years at Tech and spent many an hour in classrooms there. I can still picture the stairs and hallways. The name of my statics teacher freshman year and the one exam time when a wall of fog from the drillfield pushed up against Norris Hall.
    It truly is tragic when people feel that there is no other recourse than violence.