Thursday, August 30, 2007

Virginia Tech: Remembering the 32

But enough scandal already. I have commented in the past how sports events can serve as a focus point for healing communities. At Virginia Tech, the wounds are still raw and fresh, but Saturday's home opener in football will hopefully provide an opportunity for some of those wounds to be be healed:

Beamer, Hokies strive for emotional balance in opener

By Mark Schlabach

Updated: August 29, 2007, 4:56 PM ET

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer knows Saturday's opener against East Carolina at Lane Stadium will be as emotional as any game he's coached in two decades at his alma mater.

Tears will be shed. The 32 victims of the horrific April 16 campus shooting will be remembered.

But at the same time, Beamer knows his No. 9 Hokies have to win a ballgame, too.

"We assume that just because there's going to be a great atmosphere in the stadium that everything is going to be OK," Beamer said. "I don't think we can assume that. We've got to make sure we take care of our business as a football team."

The Hokies have tried to find a delicate balance as they prepare for the beginning of a season filled with such great possibilities. While the Virginia Tech campus is filled with the excitement and potential of a new football season, the damage done by a lone gunman on that cold, blustery April morning is still fresh in the minds of everyone here. . . .

"We're playing for somebody else, not only ourselves," linebacker Vince Hall said. "We're playing for the victims and their families. We're playing for everybody."

Other schools have looked to athletics as outlets of recovery in the past. In 1966, Texas played Southern Cal only 47 days after Charles Whitman, a former Marine, stood atop the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower and shot 47 people with his rifle. Whitman killed 14 people before he was shot and killed by police.

Four years later, on Nov. 14, 1970, while the Marshall University football team was returning to campus in Huntington, W.Va., its chartered Southern DC-9 jet crashed into a hill near the airport. All 75 passengers were killed, including 37 players and eight members of the Thundering Herd's coaching staff. It was the greatest tragedy in the history of the American sports. . . .

More recently, Texas A&M and Tulane looked to sports for healing or, if nothing else, a distraction.

Building a massive bonfire before the Texas game had been a tradition at Texas A&M for 90 years. But on Nov. 18, 1999, a week before the bonfire was to be lit on Thanksgiving night, the 40-foot high stack of nearly 5,000 logs collapsed while it was being constructed by students. The accident killed 12 students and injured 27 others. The school's football team and Corps of Cadets helped emergency workers remove logs to rescue the injured and remove bodies.

A week later, on the night the bonfire was to be lit, more than 40,000 people gathered at the accident site and observed more than two hours of silence. The crowd then walked to Kyle Field for the traditional midnight yell practice, where the crowd spontaneously relit their candles to honor the students who died. The following morning, the Aggies upset the No. 5 Longhorns 20-16 in what was perhaps the most emotional game ever played in College Station, Texas. . .
Elsewhere, Southern Methodist University is one of the many schools who also be remembering the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre on Saturday:

SMU athletes to accept donations for Virginia Tech during game

Associated Press

Updated: August 29, 2007, 6:52 PM ET

DALLAS -- Southern Methodist University student athletes plan to accept donations during Monday's football game to give to Virginia Tech to distribute to the survivors and families of those killed during a mass shooting last spring.

The athletes will be stationed at each of the gates of Ford Stadium during the game with Texas Tech to accept donations and distribute white balloons to be released following a moment of silence before the game.

Virginia Tech president Charles W. Steger said he was thankful for the support.

"Such expressions of care and compassion during our darkest hours have lighted our road to recovery. We are forever grateful for your support and kindness," Steger said. . . .

The school has received more than $7 million in contributions that are to be distributed among the injured and families of those killed.

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