The early morning hours on this date 13 years ago jarred me awake with an phone call from an assignment editor in Washington, DC — a kind of call I thought left behind three years earlier when we left the National Capital Region for what I thought would be a quiet life in Southwestern Virginia.
He wanted to know how far Blacksburg was from my location.
“One county over,” I said.
“How fast can you get there?”
“In less than a hour,” I said.
“Can you handle photos and coverage unti we get out team down there? There,’s been shootings at Virginia Tech,” he said. He used me a lot during our time in Washington.
“On my way,” I said as I took a quick shower, dressed, grabbed my camera bag and a notebook, fired up my Wrangler, and hit the road.
I figured it might be another shooting like the prisoner who shot a guard at New River Valley Medical Center and escaped before capture on the Tech campus. More than 20 hours later, after I got home, changed clothes and returned to the campus, I was part of the mob of reporters, photographers, TV cameramen and announcers covering the massacre of students and faculty — the deadliest school shooting in American history.
Korean born Seung-Hui Cho, a student at Tech, shot and killed 32 and wounded 17 others before killing himself.
It will be impossible for those who want to remember that day and honor those who died because the Tech campus, like other schools in Virginia and around the nation, is closed by the coronavirus pandemic.
That horrible day reminded all of us that horror and violent death is not something that only happens elsewhere. That April 16 in 2007 would not be the first time I have been called out to cover news of death and/or destruction: A killer tornado that struck Pulaski and other parts of Southwestern Virginia, violet flooding in North Carolina and murders here in Floyd County.
We have child pornographers threatening underage children, molesters who think girls and boys under age 13 are their sex toys, spousal abusers and a wannabe “militia” that wants to strut with their AR-15s and AK-47s.
Quiet life in the country?