A day of events at Virginia Tech on Tuesday honors the memory of the 32 people killed in a mass shooting at the school on April 16, 2007.
The memorial events began at midnight Tuesday with the lighting of a ceremonial candle at the university's April 16 Memorial, a semi-circle of 32 Hokie Stones, each engraved with a victim's name. The school said the candle would remain lit for 24 hours.
At 9:43 a.m., a statewide moment of silence honored the victims, who include 18-year-old freshman Erin Peterson; sophomore engingeering student Matthew La Porte; graduate student Juan Ramón Ortiz-Ortiz; and 76-year-old engineering professor Liviu Librescu, who held the door to his classroom closed, preventing the gunman from entering.
A display of pastel portraits of the 32 victims will be on display until 5 p.m. in the G. Burke Johnston Student Center Hallway.
Virginia Tech also identified a list of places on campus for quiet reflection (scroll to document here).
At 11:59 p.m., the ceremonial candle will be extinguished, but the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets will stand guard for 32 minutes beforehand. "The candle will be extinguished and the light will be carried back into Burruss Hall, representing the commitment to never forget," the school said.
In Richmond, about 70 people gathered for a ceremony, the Associated Press reported. Among the speakers was Joe Samaha, whose daughter Reema was one of the 32 people killed. Samaha is president of the Virginia Tech Family Outreach Foundation, which was formed after the 2007 shooting rampage to promote campus safety.
“Our charge has been that no other family would have to walk in our shoes,” Samaha said. “We hold the answer to safer schools and colleges and campuses within us, as a community.”
Samaha said beefed-up security can always be defeated, so the long-term solutions are improved mental health care and helping troubled youths.
Meanwhile, some other parents of Virginia Tech shooting victims joined state Sen. Ralph Northam, D-Norfolk, in calling for tougher gun control laws in Virginia, including universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The 2013 General Assembly rejected those ideas last winter, just weeks after the shooting deaths of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school.
“Six years is too long to wait while more families are enduring the same tragedies we experience at Virginia Tech -- yet our nation has been paralyzed on the issue of gun violence,” Andrew Goddard, whose son Colin was wounded at Tech, said in a news release.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling also addressed the crowd at the state Capitol, and a bell tolled once for each of the Virginia Tech victims.
After the ceremony, state Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker declined to say whether Monday's Boston Marathon bombings prompted any security changes at Virginia Tech for its community picnic and other shooting anniversary activities.
“The important message for Virginians is we constantly monitor what's going on everywhere and whether it can have an impact on what's going on in Virginia,” she said.
See more memorial events here.