My Colleagues:

Today was the hardest yet - mostly because of the happenings of the day, but also because I'm tired and my feet hurt. But I just found a piece of chocolate, so things are looking up.

To set the record straight - Has Virginia Tech done everything right? Of course not - but it's not for lack of trying.
At 8 a.m. this morning I was in Burruss for a student affairs briefing, when another lockdown occurred due to threats to the president. It was a frightening experience as we heard police in the hall right outside the door shouting at someone, "Get your Hands Up" "Get your Hands Up"

Facility note, it is great to have the conference room occupied signs on the door, but only if patrons use them. We had not used this important device, therefore when all of the building had been evacuated, we were left inside.
There were police set up all around the building - big guns drawn.

It was a student affairs staff member who had to "Get his Hands up".

Meanwhile, Spencer was putting up signs letting folks know Johnston Student Center would be closed when a storm of state police officers nabbed him. JSC is directly behind Burruss and this seemed suspicious. I can't imagine the fear he must have felt.
During the day I had to make three trips to the Inn for meetings with the parents. I have been assigned a family to care for. So many hard questions. So many tears. Please keep these families in your prayers.

I want to focus on the great things the UUSA Staff did today.

Please send encouraging notes to Carol Bishop,, at Amy Venturino,, I have done them a great disservice. They have been answering the phones at the info desk. From the main Virginia Tech line
- as with most of your campuses - we are forwarded all calls that are not asking for a specific department. Thus, they have been receiving calls of many people who just want to express condolences. Yesterday, Carol received three calls from families that lost loved ones in the Oklahoma City Bombing. No one should have to take calls like that all day. Fortunately we have since found ways to relieve them of non-business related calls. But we should have been doing that yesterday.

Many students left after the vigil last night or this morning. Traffic has been much lighter today. But the wonderful UUSA staff continues to respond to our needs. Hanging flags representing all of the victim's countries. One staff is checking into getting a Hokie bird statue made as a memorial to the students killed. The activities staff is fielding calls from entertainers who want to donate their services. Other staff have been rolling out additional boards to accommodate the many messages, posters, etc, that have been sent. Other staff have been coordinating a luncheon for the UUSA staff - so we can all sit down together for lunch tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that.

Since it is located on the drill field, the chapel has had many visitors and they are starting to get calls about memorial services. Today, a church from South Korea sent them 32 vases of flowers, which now line the pews.

I'd like to close with images that hit me today:

  • Students praying by a makeshift memorial set up for Caitlin.
  • Cameras, still and live everywhere.
  • Fields of satelight trucks encircling the Inn.
  • Reporters interviewing people everywhere I turn. I was told in one briefing today that more media are on our campus than have been anywhere to cover a single event - including OJ Simpson's trial.
  • Cartons of Klennex placed throughout the Inn.
  • Cyclists decked out in full cycling gear - looking so out of place today.
  • A staff member breaking down when I asked "How are you doing"
  • People signing the sandwich boards on the drill field and placing flowers by one of the 32 hokie stones.
  • One state police card passed by me as I was walking near Norris - and I heard the driver ask - is that the building where it happened - I can't believe there are any state policemen left that are not at this point intimately familiar with our campus.
  • No more body wagons in front of Norris - what a relief.
  • State Police cars still line the grass in front of Norris.
  • Flowers at a lamp post just outside the police tape at Norris.
  • The elevator button on the third floor - it needs repairing.

Julie Walters-Steele
Director, University Unions
Virginia Tech
225 Squires University Center
Blacksburg, VA 24061
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."
- Winston Churchill

Updated Dec. 11, 2009