Sunday, April 16, 2017

One decade since the tragedy at Virginia Tech

It has been one decade since the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families, relatives and friends of those who lost their lives on April 16th, 2007 in this senseless tragedy.

The picture below was on the Collegiate Times in 2007 at VT:
There is a permanent memorial at VT. The Collegiate Times has a nice article describing the memorial.

My son, John, was a freshman at VT during this time.  He graduated with a BS and Masters from the School of Engineering in Computer Science.  My middle son, Michael, graduated from VT with degrees in Professional Writing and Creative Writing.  I have countless friends that have gone to that great school in Blacksburg.

John wrote a very touching post on Facebook that I would encourage you to read.

My memories of last April 16th started with a phone call from my wife. Julie called and said, "just wanted to let you know that John is fine." At the time I was on my SunRay reading email while on a con call when she called my cellphone. She never calls me during theday since she is a school teacher. "Why would John not be be fine?" I asked. She asked me if I was watching TV or listening to the news. Of course I was not watching TV or listening to the news. She explained what was going on. I immediately interrupted the Sun folks on the con call and quickly said, "I had to get off the call, there was a shooting at my son's school."

It was then that I turned on the TV and was shocked to see the peaceful and beautiful VT campus on the news. I started getting emails, phone calls from literally around the world checking on John. You sometimes forget in casual conversation that you mentioned something about your kids that your friends and colleagues remember. Every time a call came, I paused the DVR. I was getting the current updates from friend, colleagues and family all around the world via email and non stop phone calls. As the numbers kept rising, it became more and more surreal.

My son John was working for the Collegiate Times during his freshman year of 2006 to 2007.  He put together a very nice week long history of events starting on April 16th through April 23rd that shows what happened each day.
I can not imagine the horror the students and faculty must have felt. There was an article in the post today by Nick Miroff, titled, "A Year Later, Virginia Tech Is Still Healing" is a well written article worth reading. As Miroff points out:
"Virginia Tech students have learned to talk about it in shorthand, if they talk about it at all.   Below are a few stories from that day.

They do not use the words massacre, or shootings, or rampage. They call it "April 16th," and sometimes not even that. To say "four-sixteen" is enough. Everyone knows."
I have been back to VT many times since April 16th, 2007 both as a parent and working for Sun Microsystems where I have given talks and brought down Sun's thought leaders to speak at VT's ACM where my son John is President.  Each time, the first thing I do is visit the memorial
          Governor Kaine has did a good job demanding there was the VT Task Force.  Governor Kaine stated:
"On April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech University suffered a terrible tragedy. Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and the entire Virginia Tech community.
"In the year that has passed since that horrible day, we have grieved for those we lost and prayed for the comfort of their loved ones. We have rejoiced in the recovery of those who were injured. We have been inspired by the unfaltering hope and Hokie spirit of Virginia Tech. And we have renewed our commitment to do even more to learn lessons from that day and to make our campuses and communities safer.
"As I think about the victims' families, I am at a loss for words to express what is in my heart. The courage and strength they have shown in the face of such tremendous, tragic loss is awe-inspiring. We have been inspired by the resilient Hokie spirit of Virginia Tech, both in Blacksburg and around the world. Since that tragic day last April, the unshakeable sense of unity and hope demonstrated by the Hokies has touched the lives of people around the world. Their focus on pulling together to support their school and each other in the days after the shooting, and their commitment to public service through the VT Engage program in the months that followed has moved us all.
"We still have work to do. A continued commitment to improvement is the best tribute we can pay to those who lost so much. And as we move forward, we will continue to be inspired by those in the Hokie Nation."

VT seems to have made the right changes. The VT Task Force seemed to not pull any punches when it came to how the University should have dealt with the events on the morning of April 16th, 2007. As the AP reported and I FULLY AGREE with Governor Kaine about purchasing firearms at gun shows. Virginia needs to get its act together.  This loophole is INSANE!

"Gov. Timothy M. Kaine proposed mandated background checks yesterday for everyone who attempts to purchase firearms at gun shows - legislation that he called critical to helping prevent future tragedies like the shootings at Virginia Tech. Many families of those killed or injured in the April shootings have called on legislators to close Virginia’s so-called gun show loophole, which allows people to purchase firearms from unlicensed sellers at gun shows without having to submit to background checks. Under current Virginia law, only licensed dealers are required to run background checks on customers.

“If by doing this, we can keep one family from having to go through what these families have suffered, it will be the best thing that the legislature will do this year,” Kaine said at Virginia State Police headquarters, surrounded by several of the victims’ families."

VA continues to be a backward state and allows the gun show loophole.   I also called into the Kojo Nnamdi Show when he had an anniversary show on the VT shooting.   If you go to the 11:52 mark, you can hear my statements and question that goes until the 13:14 mark.

"Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others."  Winston Churchill

The tragedy at Virginia Tech is still heart wrenching. As a parent of a VT freshman, it is still hard to comprehend the magnitude of this tragedy. There were many heroes on VT's Campus on April 16th, 2007. Many are well documented in the press.

There are five individuals who were behind the scenes that are absolute heroes in my mind. Those five heroes are the individuals who run online Collegiate Times which is VT's main online paper and kept the world informed on the latest breaking news coming out of VT on this senseless tragedy. These five individuals were literally working around the clock, giving up sleep to keep their fellow students, parents, family, friends, faculty and the rest of the world informed.

These five unsung heroes
all have the "first of human qualities" - courage. It would have been perfectly understandable if these five individuals would have given up when their servers went down. But they did not. They had the courage to literally work around the clock to get the server back up *and* keep the rest of the world informed of the latest updates to one of the most of horrific days in the history of our country. The five
individuals are:

Chris Ritter, Online Director
Tim Tutt, Web Developer
John Edstrom, Associate Web Developer
Gabriel Martinez, Associate Web Designer
Collin Smith, Multimedia Editor

One of the many amazing statistics is that the Collegiate Times received up to 53 million hits by early afternoon on Monday April 16th.
My sister, Dr. Julie Edstrom, (yes, same first name as my wife) was one of the first counselors to arrive at VT from Norther VA to help with the grief counseling.   Volunteers came from all over.

Wikipedia has a nice history of the Collegiate Times with the picture that appeared on the Collegiate Times April 17th, 2007, Edition titled "Heartache."

Below are just some of quotes on the fantastic work that
these five unsung heroes did under
tremendous pressure.

The OnLine Newshour on PBS

"The Internet became a prime place for people to
get the news out of Blacksburg.
The college
newspaper, the Collegiate Times, scooped the major
media, getting the story online, right after the
first shot rang out, and staying on it non-stop
ever since.

The 104-year-old paper received up to 53 million
hits by early Monday afternoon,
forcing the site
down for a time. It also listed some of the dead
early Tuesday morning,
prompting the New York Times
Web site and other news outlets to link to the
Collegiate Times."

The Shield - University of Southern Indiana Student Newspaper
"The information on the Web site is remarkable.
Besides the list of confirmed deceased, the site
provides a graphic map of the shootings, a photo
gallery, personal accounts and interviews and
related stories ranging from emerging donation
details to the impact on the nearest hospital. The
staff has handled the facts correctly, but not
without compassion, which is a difficult task.

The Collegiate Times editorial says, "When
considering the number of deceased victims, 32 is
devastating, but those lives are not just a number,
each one is a member of our community." Journalism
cannot be disregarded due to a personal tragedy,

since citizens rely on journalists for information.
Such journalists must remember, however, that
although horrific tragedies stir media attention as
sensational, there is nothing sensational about
human suffering and coverage must be conducted

Well done Collegiate Times staff.

To those that believe campus newspapers are a waste
of time and funding, let this tragedy serve the
purpose of proving the necessity of campus
newspapers nationwide."
Chronicle of Higher Education

"National Public Radio is among news organizations
that have profiled and praised Virginia Tech
student newspaper, The Collegiate Times, which has
become a crucial source of information for other
reporters covering Monday's events.

The papers online edition, said NPR's Larry
Abramson, has grabbed international attention
indeed, on Tuesday The New York Timess home page
linked to the student publications list
confirmed victims of the shooter. Mr. Abramson
also pointed out that Collegiate Times staff
members know how to mine Facebook for information
inaccessible to many older reporters who are
unfamiliar with the social-networking site
." -

"The team at The Collegiate Times, the campus
newspaper, will remain. So far, they have been
setting the pace for all journalists"
Middlebury Campus

"The face of a crisis, the writers, photographers
and editors of Virginia Tech's student daily,
Collegiate Times, transcended their roles as
college journalists to not only inform their
community, but to inform the world. With many local
news sources shut out, only limited comments coming
from Virginia Tech officials and an entire campus
on lock-down, the importance of these students'
work was heightened to an extreme.
The written,
photographic and video posts to The Times website
throughout the day were among the most vivid and
honest portraits of the campus available.
from computers outside of their offices, the
students held nothing back, and produced a raw,
emotional narrative of the tragedy. Their reporting
was effective, critical and in every sense, brave."

Editor and Publisher

"While the editors of the student newspaper went
about their work with inspiring leadership,

internal communications by Virginia Tech
administrators showed the University was less than
fully prepared. As more and more details about the
sequence of events have been released, it has
become clear that administrators did not notify the
entire campus or order a full lockdown until more
than two hours after the first round of shooting
began. Whether or not any of the deaths in the
second round of shooting could have been avoided,
we should realize the need for all institutions to
prepare for the unimaginable. And
in the face of
this shooting, college administrators everywhere
should recognize the need to share information with
their communities quickly and clearly, even as the
full extent of a crisis may remain unknown."

"The college paper at Virginia Polytechnical
Institute kept a running account of the tragedy
that struck the campus today,
with more than 30
students gunned down in at least two areas of the
campus, a dorm and a classroom. The shooter is
allegedly dead as well, but not identified. It is
not known if he was a student ...

Here is how the student-run Collegiate Times
reported it, blog-style, with the most recent
posting first.
A full article is now posted there,
which includes the note that police "are also
investigating if it has any relation to the recent
bomb threats on Tech's campus."
Seattle Post Intelligencer

"For unique reporting on the massacre read the
Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech's student-run
University Daily Kansan

"While news organizations like CNN have done a
thorough job in covering Monday's events, I'd like
to point the readers of to Virginia
Tech's student newspaper, the Collegiate Times.
After overcoming early technical difficulty when
the news initially broke, they've done what I feel
is an admirable job as the student voice of the
Virginia Tech community.

In the process of learning about these tragic
events, be sure to not overlook the students

"I found a couple sites with unique angles on this
story. One of the most interesting is The
Collegiate Times, which is VT's student newspaper.

Their staff apparently first reported this shooting
this morning. The server is overwhelmed right now,
but it will be interesting to check their coverage
in the days and weeks ahead."

onday's shooting at Virginia Tech provided a
grim, real-time stress test for the effectiveness
of Web 2.0 technologies. And on Monday, all of them
seemed to work: Information flew through text
messages, blog posts, Web sites, online videos and
social networking sites.

The Internet reacted to the event immediately--and
more quickly than Virginia Tech administrators, who
took two hours to warn students, via e-mail, about
a first shooting. The Web site of VT's student
newspaper, the Collegiate Times, crashed when
students flooded it after the first shooting. As a
replacement, students created a low-tech blog,

It posted the first entry about the event at 9:47 a.m.,
minutes before the second shooting began."

Yahoo News

"The student newspaper, the Collegiate Times,
regularly updated its website proving to be a
valuable resource for the campus as well as the
national media."
Daily Californian

"And as this happened, students at the Collegiate
Times, the Virginia Tech student newspaper, were
able to live-blog the days events. The Web site
began the day with a post at 9:47 a.m. EST,
reporting Shots were fired on campus and
provided continuing updates throughout the day. The
entries of the papers staff provide an
illuminating window into the fear and questioning
that doubtless gripped the campus in those
uncertain hours."

"The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech's campus newspaper,
was the first media outlet to break the story Monday with
on-line reports of shots fired on campus."
Manhattan Mercury

"No amount of on-the-job experience or education
could have prepared Kelly Furnas
for what he's
faced this week in his capacity as an editorial
advisor to the campus newspaper at grief-stricken
Virginia Tech University.


To be honest its been pretty much non-stop working
with the student newspaper I have not had time on a
personal level to sit down and digest everything
yet," Furnas said.

The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech's campus
newspaper, was the first media outlet to break the
story Monday with on-line reports of shots fired on

"I can't put into words how proud I am of our
Furnas said. "They have provided
desperately needed information to their readers,
and they have done that with gusto. I think the
campus newspaper's reputation with the students
here has helped a lot."

The Age (Australia)

"'The school's student newspaper, The Collegiate
Times, filed up-to-the-minute online dispatches.
4.44pm: "Police have confirmed that the shooter
took his own life." At 4.54pm: "University
Relations has confirmed 31 deaths at Norris Hall,
in addition to two deaths at West Ambler Johnson."
Gulf Times

The Collegiate Times (its server quickly crashed
and a blog written by editors with messages from
students appeared instead on the web site of the
newspapers owning company), as well as to media
outlets around the world, including CNN and the
BBC. Regardless of where the contributions are
aimed, the back and forth on and other
social networking sites are equally an instant and
new resource for news producers and reporters


"As reporters from around the world descend on
Blacksburg, Va., one publication stands out:
Virginia Tech's student newspaper, Collegiate
Times, is doing a truly remarkable job of covering
the story."

About 15 staff members were rushing to update the
site about every 15 minutes with news of the
convocation, shooting investigation and candlelight
vigil plans.

"We're getting like 10 billion phone calls,
everyone from Al Jazeera to tiny radio stations in
Kendall said.
LA Times

"The paper's scoops included eyewitness accounts of
the shootings, interviews with a classmate of the
shooter and a list of victims' names that was
posted late Tuesday
. A reporter was one of the
first to question administrators about why they
didn't warn students during the two hours between
the two shootings Monday morning."


"The Web staff for Virginia Tech's student
newspaper, The Collegiate Times, was also
scrambling for solutions after its servers crashed
around 10:30 a.m. the day of the shootings.

Online editor Chris Ritter's main goal was to get
the site back to its original state -- a large,
graphical and Flash-intensive homepage. When that
couldn't happen, Ritter and his staff opted for a
simple text page with blue background -- to ensure
they could communicate information quickly to
. After that page continued to overload its
own server, The Collegiate Times tech adviser,
Scott Chandler, suggested that the staff use the
College Media server, the parent company which
hosts the publication's site.

Once the site stabilized on the additional server,
The Collegiate Times began posting photos and
videos to a third server usually reserved for
design research and development. To prevent
crashing again, a Virginia Tech server is now
hosting videos and photos for the site.

Monday night The Collegiate Times staff redesigned
its homepage from scratch to have a Web site
was "intuitive and a graphically pleasing display"
of its special content for the shootings. The
Collegiate Times began creating breaking-news
multimedia when escaped convict William Morva shot
two police officers at Virginia Tech on the first
day of school last August.

Since then, Ritter said users are looking at the
Web for information more than ever before, and the
staff has adopted a Web-first attitude change."

Roanoke Times on CT:
Coping Through Journalism Video

Hopefully the healing will continue for those directly affected...