Five Years After Massacre, Virginia Tech Campus Pays Tribute to Victims

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Matt Gentry / The Roanoke Times / AP

Paige Eckerd, right, and Kristy McCain, center, look skyward at released balloons at the start of a Run in Remembrance on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. on April 14, 2012.

Monday marks the five-year anniversary of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 victims and the gunman dead. This year is the first time the school will not suspend classes in remembrance of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Provost Mark McNamee told the Associated Press that the return to classes reflects the lives of those killed. “Their passion for education, their desire to do good in the world, their commitment to their disciplines come through so strongly that we felt being in classes was one special way of remembering them onward,” McNamee said.

Survivors and parents of students killed were afraid the memory of the massacre would fade over time, and so chose symbolic ways of remembering the tragedy.

(PHOTOS: Outpouring of Grief at Virginia Tech)

At midnight, a few hundred students gathered around a ceremonial candle for a silent vigil. The candle will burn throughout the entire day Monday, and will be extinguished at 11:59 p.m. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is scheduled to address another candlelight vigil on campus, after previously issuing a proclamation identifying April 16 as Virginia Tech Remembrance Day.

The proclamation states that the day honors the 32 lives that were “hastily taken, leaving absences that will never be filled and a profound sense of sorrow in the lives of those impacted.”

An open house is scheduled at Norris Hall, the location where Cho killed himself. The building is now home to the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. Director James Hawdon told the AP that the center was established after the 2009 killings at Norris Hall “to transform a place of pain, suffering and violence that can prevent future violence.” It promotes student volunteerism and nonviolent communication techniques.

In Washington, Virginia Tech survivor Colin Goddard and other gun control advocates will be lobbying Congress for two days starting Monday. Goddard’s documentary, Living for 32, will be screened on colleges campuses across the country.

The day will end with the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets standing guard for 32 minutes prior to the 11:59 p.m. extinguishing of the candle.

PHOTOS: Blacksburg in Black and White