BLACKSBURG, Va. – Still grieving and increasingly wary of the media spotlight, Virginia Tech students returned to their beleaguered campus Sunday, preparing to salvage the final weeks of a semester eclipsed by violence.
The scene on campus resembled move-in day in late summer, with parents helping their children carry suitcases into dormitories. There were tears and hugs goodbye. But instead of excitement for the year ahead, there was simply determination to endure and regroup in the fall.
When classes resume Monday, the university will give students three choices: They can continue their studies through the end of the semester next week, take a grade based on what they have done so far, or withdraw from a course without penalty.
“I want to go back. It’s just really strange to just stop going,” said Paul Deyerle, a sophomore from Roanoke who was helping a friend move belongings from the dormitory where another close friend, Ryan Clark, was among those killed in the worst shooting massacre in modern U.S. history.
Administrators have canceled big events such as the spring football game and postponed a fund-raising campaign. The goal is to begin restarting academic life but without pushing the university’s 26,000 students too hard.
“I want to be back this week even if I don’t take my exams, just to be with people,” said Brittany Gambardella, a freshman. “Then you go home, and you end the year on a good note.”
Many returning students stopped by the campus lawn to visit memorials to the victims and sign posters of remembrance.
State police plan to maintain a security presence on campus at least through Monday.
Students say they welcome the outpouring of support they have received, but they have grown noticeably weary of the news media. The Student Government Association asked reporters to leave by the start of classes Monday.
“Our students are ready to start moving forward, and the best we can do that is to get the campus back to normal,” Liz Hart, director of public relations for the SGA, said in a telephone interview. Students don’t want “anything external to remind us it will be a difficult road. We know that.”