By the time you read this message, it will have been more than three months since the Ambler Johnston/Norris tragedy on our campus. It is impossible to convey the effort involved in coping with the aftermath of April 16 and trying to return to the normal workflow. Each day brings new challenges for almost every sector of the university, but rest assured that your alma mater is doing everything possible to attend to the needs of the many who were affected by the tragedy. Some updates:
Norris Hall is open for limited activity. Currently, faculty and graduate students are slowly reclaiming offices and laboratories and are restarting both their lives and the engineering science and mechanics department. This building will never again be used for general assignment classrooms. Deciding to re-open the building was gut-wrenching and difficult, but it is truly the only feasible alternative. See "Norris Hall re-opens" for more.
Creating a memorial site for the families of victims, the university community, our extended family--including alumni--and all those who have helped us is a priority; it is not an understatement to say that the world still mourns with us. Knowing this, we are constructing an "intermediate memorial" on the Drillfield in the same location as the ad-hoc memorial so poignantly developed by our students. This interim memorial will provide a physical location for expressions of support and for the contemplation that will help us come to grips with this horrendous crime. A dedication is planned for the beginning of the semester. To see a rendering of the interim memorial, go here.
Supporting the families of deceased and injured victims remains paramount, and their needs are both immense and complicated. Through "family liaisons"--staff members and faculty--we have been in regular contact with the families, trying to help them as much as possible. We are now hiring "recovery liaisons" to assist these families and victims.
The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund has been in the news, and demands for its use are also immense. We are working closely with the victims' families and surviving victims to determine how they would like to see the funds used. To help in this process, the university has asked Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served as the "special master" of the federal Sept. 11 victim compensation fund, to administer distributions of the proceeds from the fund. To learn more about the future of the fund, see "Tech to work with Sept. 11 administrator."
Thanking the world will be a monumental and long-term task. We have leased space simply to hold the thousands of touching letters, posters, and unique artifacts sent from every corner of the globe (go here for more). We continue to be moved, even overwhelmed, by the emotions and physical expressions of support from so many, and we are working to acknowledge as many as possible.
Moving forward is difficult yet essential. The university cares deeply about its students and its special mission of learning, discovery, and engagement. We are immersed in a noble vocation: helping people achieve the boundless capabilities of the human spirit. As fall approaches, our thoughts turn toward meeting the needs of our new and returning students for a meaningful and productive academic year.
Moving on is not forgetting. And although it may not be possible to ever do enough to assist those in need of help, Virginia Tech remains committed to finding ways. Your ongoing prayers and support for the students, faculty, administration, and especially the victims and their families are deeply appreciated.