Last night, Blacksburg came to Pittsburgh. Students and community members came together on the Pitt campus in Oakland for a candlelight vigil to honor and remember those who lost their lives at Virginia Tech. The vigil was dignified, solemn and very moving. 32 students came with a candle and lit a candle for each of the fallen. Hundreds stood by on the lawn between Heinz Chapel and the Cathedral of Learning. They held candles and held back tears.
It was moving and – for the first time – I was truly moved because I was a part of the ceremony. Rarely are members of the news media involved in such events but I was invited by the university’s student government to welcome everyone. It was a honor and I guess I was selected because of my often-times campus involvement when it comes to Pitt pep rallies and speaking on campus. Thanks to student Lauren Cavallaro for the invite.
For this evening, I chose to hide the fact I worked at WTAE. I only said my name and then went on with my prepared three-minutes of remarks. I spoke of community and support for the people at Virginia Tech. I challenged the audience live their lives for those 32 who were gunned down in an act of senseless violence.
But this was a night to observe – first-hand – the grieving and the pain of the tragedy. I stood beside a Virginia Tech grad from Clairion along with a former Tech quarterback now in Steelers camp. Both spoke of how close the Blacksburg community was and how the bond was even greater now. Listen to the names of the 32 – as a candle was lit for each – it was hard to hold back the tears.
But the part about the vigil that will always stick with me — will be how close our community has become. Pittsburgh has always had the incredible ability to support itself through the difficult times – be it losing a mayor or a championship football game – and last night, that ability was on hand. This is not Blacksburg but if tragedy ( heaven forbid) ever strikes here, we are strong enough and our arms are wide to hold each other through the storm.