As the horrific events unfolded today at Virginia Tech, we learned that students had no idea what was happening on their beloved campus. A gunman had killed 32 students and faculty members, injured at least 20 others, and then turned the gun on himself.
Students were locked down in their dorms and classrooms with little means of communicating with their friends and family. Some jumped from windows, some hid in hallways, and some found the strength to record the events on cell phones and webcams.
There has been so much focus on webistes such as FaceBook and MySpace and how dangerous these sites can be for teenagers and young adults. Until now, these sites are known only to been havens for internet predators or to show how students enjoy their college-partying life with explicit pictures and language. Today these sites were a place of refuge, communication, and comfort.
VT students were using every type of communication possible from texting, IM’ing, and phone calls to logging onto the internet via laptops. Many students used their FaceBook profile page to update their status saying “I’m Ok.” Friends were trying to locate one another by posting messages on their blogs and writing on each other’s walls (it’s a FaceBook thing). This evening I sat down and spent two hours reading various posts and messages. I can hear the terror in the words and anger in many others. I have read how students were upset that more was not done sooner. I read that one student still has not heard from her best friend and roomate. I read that another never wants to return.
As the tears were rolling down my cheeks, I read the endless groups that have been created in FaceBook in memory of what happened today. There are titles such as “We Remember Virginia Tech April 16, 2007” to “We Are Praying For You VT.” One of the groups is sending out an invitation to students and alumni that a candlelight vigil will be held. Dexel University posted:
Tomorrow, April 17, wear maroon and orange ribbons or shirts to remember those victims of Virginia Tech. Please spread the word by joining and inviting your friends to join the groups below. We want VT to know that the world is thinking of them.
Tomorrow these sites may be back to the usual college stuff, but I doubt it.
FaceBook and MySpace have played a major role in helping those students today. We have heard the voices of the VT students and our prayers and hearts go out to them and the entire VT family.