Colleges Across Country Hold Vigils To Mourn Virginia Tech Victims

Tuesday, April 17th 2007, 10:18 pm
By: News On 6

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) _ A student rang a hand-held bell 33 times Tuesday inside the soaring and silent chapel of tiny Muhlenberg College, hundreds of miles away from where the tragedy unfolded at Virginia Tech.

Bound by the commonality of the campus experience, students wanted to express their support for Virginia Tech and reassure suddenly uneasy students that they still are safe.

``There's not much we can do for them, other than with our thoughts and prayers, and I'm sure that's why people showed up,'' said Muhlenberg student body president Scott Gordon, one of about 175 students who attended.

In chapels, courtyards and campus centers across the country, students scheduled similar observances to reach out the students and staff in Blacksburg, Va., reeling a day after the shooting deaths of 33 people, including the lone student police blame in the rampage.

At Lafayette College in Easton, President Daniel Weiss said there would be a memorial service for shooting victim Daniel O'Neil of Rhode Island, who graduated last May with a degree in civil engineering. ``It is difficult to find words to express the deep sense of loss in our community,'' Weiss wrote on the school's Web site.

``Everyone knows someone who is affected by it, even here,'' said Jessica Liberati, a senior at Lebanon Valley College in Annville whose cousin attends Virginia Tech but was not injured.

At Muhlenberg, many students said they were chilled by the thought that what happened at Virginia Tech could have happened on virtually any college campus.

``It makes you feel vulnerable,'' said Stephanie Siegel, 19, a sophomore from New Jersey.

The University of Texas, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and shot 16 people to death in 1966, announced it would darken the tower Tuesday night through Thursday in remembrance of the Virginia Tech victims.

William Powers Jr., the Austin university's president, said in an e-mail message to faculty, staff and students that he contacted Virginia Tech president Charles W. Steger to express his sympathies and offer assistance as Virginia Tech recovers. Powers' e-mail also included information on campus security and the availability of counseling services.

At Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, about 300 students turned out Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil in a courtyard outside a student center.

Some of the people at the vigil knew students who died at VTU, said Stacey Brozio, a junior who helped put together the service on short notice. At the conclusion of the 45-minute gathering, many placed candles around a reflecting pool.

``It was a somber mood. We know it could have been us,'' junior Jon Elson said.

If you have family or a professional connection with Virginia Tech, the News On 6 would like to hear from you. Please contact us at 918-732-6105 or email the News On 6.

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