Mia Ortega, a JVC volunteer some years ago, wrote from Virginia Tech just after the horrendous shootings which took 32 lives. A good friend of hers was killed after he came to the aid of another of the victims.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for the continued messages of concern, hope, and prayers. I am so grateful to know that I have your support. As silly as this may sound, I can truly feel your prayers and positive thoughts coming from your corners of the world. In such a time of grief, it is certainly helpful to know I am in the minds and hearts of my friends near and far.
This has been such a difficult couple of days. It is hard to believe that it has only been 2 days. The days are long here in Blacksburg.
I am doing my best to get by. I slip from being numb to uncontrollable crying. Sometimes I forget about the whole thing, and sometimes reality slaps me hard in the face. It is also difficult to even grasp the magnitude of the situation. People on the news have been calling this a massacre. Massacre at Virginia Tech. I even have trouble saying that term aloud. I usually say it when referring to other countries like Sudan. I should say that I do feel fortunate, because I have only experienced this once in my lifetime. I couldn’t imagine going through this every day.
As some of you may know from some of my appearances on TV, I lost a friend in this bloody mess. Ryan “Stack” Clark was the RA who had arrived to the scene to come to the aid of the girl. He was an incredible man, with a very big heart. I was very sad to hear of his death, and I still have a hard time believing he is gone. We were supposed to be at a celebration Monday night, commemorating the 10-year anniversary of our workplace. I was very much looking forward to seeing him again. I miss his jokes, his smile, and his beautiful spirit. He died serving his community, doing what he loved best. I’m very proud of him, and I’m missing him. We alumni and current members of Circle K, another organization I knew him through, are putting together a memorial scholarship in his name. Love never dies. Although Ryan is no longer with us, his love for this community will be with us forever.
This has all been quite surreal and horrific for me. I don’t even think I have fully processed it all yet. In some ways, I am expecting to wake up. It is like walking through a lucid nightmare.
However, for those of you who have had the pleasure of witnessing it, perhaps at a football game, a graduation, etc., Hokie Spirit is truly a wonderful thing. Our community has come together and pulled through so many difficult times; from the attacks during 9/11, to our fallen soldiers who were former students, to the Gulf Coast floods, we have always managed to gather, and come up with some sort of plan of action, while supporting one another. That is going on even now.
I myself am trying my best to take care of myself, as well as my students. It is difficult though, as someone who is struggling with the situation itself, I find it hard to talk through the tears to answer some of their questions. I’ve had to tell 3 of my students who knew him about Ryan’s death. That has probably been the most difficult thing I’ve had to do all my life. I have the deepest respect for doctors and other people who have to do that sort of thing on a regular basis.
I’d like to apologize for my slow response to some of your phone calls, messages, etc. I think I may be out of minutes by now, and I’m getting so many calls every day it is difficult to keep track and respond immediately. Even if I haven’t yet responded, please know that I am grateful for your calls and messages. Every time my phone lights up, or my e-mail beeps, I know that is God reminding me that I am loved. Thank you all for your patience, but most of all for your prayers.
Some of you have already asked what you can do to help. I ask that you please pass the word on to others that I am safe here at Virginia Tech, and also ask them to pray for us. I ask that you continue to pray for us Hokies. Please stay tuned to the news for further developments about this case, and for your community’s local response. I hear there will be a state-wide vigil on Thursday. As of now, I’m not for certain about national or global things like that, but I’m sure they are going on. And finally, I ask that when you do see me, no matter how soon or far that may be, to please give me a big hug. It is odd, because I used to not be so carefree with my hugs. But now, I need them more than ever. If you can’t hug me, hug the ones you love. And tell them every day you love them.
Thank you all so much