Posts filed under ‘Virginia Tech Massacre’

Belly Dancing

On Monday, Ann and I had our very first belly dancing class courtesy of the YMCA Open University.  I expected to go through a period of humilation and awkwardness to get to the fun, but the atmosphere was instantly relaxing and free.  I had a very good time and look forward to the coming weeks. 

There were some less than stellar moments, however.  They had everything to do with my communications skills and very little to do with my ability to isolate motion in different body parts.

Since it was the first class, the instructor had us go around the room to introduce ourselves and tell the class why we were there.  The very first girl went and she spoke for some time on all the advantages she expected to see from belly dancing– exposure to other cultures, boosted self-esteem, exercise, all very good reasons.  As I listened to her well-articulated answers, I thought about my eventual answer in my head.  And suddenly I felt the urge to laugh.

I have Sawyer blood in me and inopportune laughter is one of our “features”.  My siblings and I demonstrated we inherited this trait early on, laughing at the word “naked” in church.  At my cousin Adam’s wedding in 2000, nearly our whole pew struggled to stiffle laughter during part of the ceremony (it was the antics of my father that were so hilarious– not the actual ceremony).  At least nine of us, representing two seperate branches of the family and two seperate generations, burst out laughing waiting at a funeral once. 

So as soon as my own thoughts struck me as amusing, I could feel the urge to laugh.  My belly dancing classmate was still elaborating on her variety of reasons for being there.  I hung my head and cracked a smile.  Thank goodness I still have all that Locks of Love hair to obscure my face.  Just when I thought I had fought back the urge to laugh, it came back with a vengence.  I tried, I really tried, but I couldn’t hold it in.

I laughed.

Now, this wasn’t a very large class and I was very audible to everyone present.  Worse– it looked like I was laughing at this poor girl.

“I’m sorry,” I said (still laughing!), “I’m just thinking about how LAME my answer is going to sound next to yours!!!”

The others seemed satisfied with my explanation and the teacher gave an understanding smile.

“Any answer is good,” the teacher told the class and then looked at me, “So it’s okay if you want to say, ‘I like the glittery costumes'”.

Oh, if only she knew.

One thing about my timing is good.  I’m glad I laughed during the first girl’s spiel.  The second girl was supposed to be in one of the rooms in Norris Hall on April 16th, but didn’t make it to class that day.  She said that event made her take an inventory of her life and she realized how much stuff she wanted to do in life that she had never tried. 

“And belly dancing is one of those things,” she said, “So here I am.”

Can you imagine if I laughed during that?!?!

Anyway, we go around the room and everyone has all these great answers as to why they were there.  Then the teacher calls on Ann.

“Uh……….” Ann got a glazed, deer-in-the-headlights look on her face.

“So… yeah…” I busted in, “Uh…we were drinking wine…”

I did go on to share some of positives draws of the class that peaked our interest, but when you get down to it, that’s the root cause in a nutshell.  Wine.  🙂

Regardless of the initial reason, the class is super fun and not bad exercise at all.  I checked in on my pulse at one point and it was elevated (far from “Angel Rest ascent” elevated, but an improvement over “sitting at a computer”).  And I could definitely feel somes muscles in action that normally remain idle.  I expect very, very good things to come.

August 29, 2007 at 9:40 am 8 comments

Drained Duck Pond

Stopped by the Virginia Tech Duck Pond after lunch today.  It’s not the most pretty sight, but the animals are adapting.  Nearby pools of water remain in tact for the ducks.  A heron seemed to rather enjoy the easy hunting in the shallow waters.  Blackbirds congregated in a mini stream that ran through what remains of the pond.  For some ducks, it is business as usual as they swarmed around a family with bread. 

Here’s a comparison shot between last Friday and today.  You’ll have to look in the background– the foreground is a mini-pond that is in tact:

Duck Pond June 22, 2007

Duck Pond June 27, 2007

As expected, there was a lot of debris on the bottom.  Golf balls, beer cans, barrells, bottles, cups.  Traffic cones seemed to be pretty popular as well.  I saw at least three.  At one point, the heron found one half submerged traffic cone to be a convenient perch.

Overview of the pond

Two ducks cross the barren landscape

Blackbirds congregate at some remaining water

Barrells and trash in the mud

A worker boats in remaining water

Heron with a traffic cone

Lines of police cars on the grass

More Drained Duck Pond pictures can be found on my Flickr site.

June 27, 2007 at 2:38 pm 6 comments

Draining of the Virginia Tech Duck Pond

Wow.  Looks like it was good little Gwyn and I visited the Virginia Tech Duck Pond when we did.  Today, the Duck Pond started getting drained as part of the state investigation of the Virginia Tech shooting.  This news may explain why I spotted a Virginia State Underwater Search and Rescue Team truck on 460 today. 

Anyway, I don’t know what they are hoping to find, but I bet they come across a lot of disgusting surprises in there.  My sophomore year of college I was feeding the ducks when my class ring fell into the water.  I had to get in and actually submerge my head underwater to retrieve it.  The next week…. I got mono.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  But I bet the various organisms in that water didn’t help my immune system!  🙂

Virginia Tech Duck Pond…with water

After the investigation, the school is going to do some repairs to the pond.  It could remain drained for several weeks.  You know what that means?  I’m going to be under an awful lot of pressure to actually finish the bread I buy.  😉

June 25, 2007 at 7:19 pm Leave a comment

BLOG: 50,000 Views Reached

Just a quick note to document when this blog passed 50,000 views (I’m blatently copying Clint’s post from January).

My very first post was March 3, 2006, so it took almost fourteen months to hit this mark.  In January, I was at 20,000, so the last 30,000 views occurred in 2007. 

Sadly, it seems I’ve hit my 50,000 mark under morbid circumstances.  The day after Kurt Vonnegut’s death was reported by news agencies, I had my highest day courtesy of people searching for funeral information.  Less than a week later, that new record high was dwarfed when worse news, news that hit closer to home, broke.

Clint was able to get his second 50,000 views in just four months.  Seeing what promotes my blog’s highest days, I’m not sure I want to follow in his footsteps! 

April 29, 2007 at 5:57 pm 7 comments

Virginia Tech Massacre: Hate Group Keeps Wounds Fresh

Earlier this week, on a seemingly idle Monday, we got to witness the worst of mankind.  And then through that heartache, we got to see the best of mankind– a teacher sacrificing himself for his students, a strong father recounting his daughter’s memory with love, the prayers and outreach of countless rivals and strangers.  And now, we once again get to see the worst of mankind:

 The Westboro Baptist Church, based out of Topeka Kansas, is planning on picketing Ryan Clark’s funeral tomorrow in Georgia, presumably to show us that “God is punishing America for her sodomite sins…”  Clint alerted me to this disturbing news via a blog post of his.

I have heard many remarkable things about Ryan Clark the last few days.   The item I will remember the most in the coming decades is a snippet someone wrote on one of the memorials on the Virginia Tech Drillfield.  The author talked about how helpful and happy and uplifting Ryan Clark was and then the author said (possibly paraphrased), “I can not think of a better angel than you.”

Ryan Clark, this angel, does NOT deserve what the Westboro Baptist Church intends. is organizing Hokies and Hokie Supporters to “block these monsters” from the funerals of all 32 victims, including Ryan Clark.  If you are interested in participating, they have contact information listed on their site.  It is too late to save the victims from their untimely deaths, but hopefully there is still time to save the dignity of their services.

April 20, 2007 at 8:25 pm 3 comments

Walk on Campus

This evening, Larry, Mike E and I took a somber walk around campus. Below are some pictures from our walk.

Sentiments From Other Schools
I continue to be overwhelmed by the responses we see from around the world. A couple signs on the Drillfield originated from other schools.

NYU Stands With You

From Auburn University

Marquee Messages
In my journals following September 11th, I noted how the local businesses displayed messages in their marquees. This incident provoked a similiar response.

The Lyric, our theatre which originally opened in 1930

The Comfort Inn in Christiansburg quotes Nikki Giovanni

A Child’s Note
People had placed flowers next to the West Ambler Johnston (my dorm of two years) sign.

Flowers at West Ambler Johnston

A child had placed a note there as well. From what I could tell it read:

I [am] sorry for wh[at] haped. I hop there [is no] more bad g[?]eas at VT. I hoap it wilt never haped a gine

At such a young age, this child is already reaching out and communicating his/her personal disappointments and sorrows. If Cho Seung-Hui had mastered similiar skills, perhaps his turmoil would not have reached the point it did.

Child’s Note

Hokie Stone
On the Drillfield in front of Burruss, 32 blocks of Hokie Stones were placed in an arc. Each stone represented a life cut short and each stone had a VT flag and flowers respectfully placed upon it.

One of the memorial Hokie Stones on the Drillfield

Three of the stones with flowers and Burruss in the background

Drillfield Trees
A tree is planted on the Drillfield for each graduating class of Virginia Tech. Today, maroon, orange and/or black ribbons were tied around each tree. This particular tree was near the War Memorial. You can see the VT President Bush and Governor Kaine signed in the background.

Maroon, orange and black ribbons on a Drillfield tree.

Drillfield, War Memorial and Squires
Multiple memorials were present all around campus, particularly the Drillfield and our War Memorial.

Maroon and orange wreath at the War Memorial. You can see visitors to the Drillfield in the background.

A make-shift memorial (the VT was originally crafted by students for the Miami game). In front are white candles for each of the deaths and red candles for each of the injured. In the background, a blooming tree indicates it’s spring (a period typically associated with new life, not what was brought our way).

A Sign Hangs Above Squires Student Center

Signatures and flowers on the Drillfield

A teddy bear on the War Memorial with a shirt that reads, “Somebody in Blacksburg Loves You”

I have a few more pictures of our campus visit on my Flickr site. There are also some wonderful shots by others at the Virginia Tech Shooting Flickr group.

April 19, 2007 at 1:12 am 4 comments

Thoughts From Friends

Greetings from my home in Blacksburg, Virginia.  It took roughly 26 hours, involved a cold night on the Dulles floor, a reroute to Greensboro and lost luggage, but we finally made it home.  Special thanks goes out to Bill C who, on short notice, picked us up in Greensboro and took us back to Roanoke to retrieve our luggage.  Bill and I left Roanoke Airport shortly before Airforce One arrived and we got to watch a group of six helicopters pass over on I-81 on their way to Blacksburg.  

I’m tired and sad and have little urge to write publicly at the moment.  Below are links to blog posts some of my friends, classmates and past roommates have composed on the Virginia Tech Tragedy:

Stacy M, former roommate and VT Alum

Chris S, former roommate and VT Alum

Mike N, hiking/skiing buddy and VT Alum

Brian V, former coworker and VT Alum

Christina G, friend of 17 years writing from Germany

Jason C, former coworker and VT Alum

Love to All,

April 17, 2007 at 4:50 pm 1 comment

Thoughts From the Plane: Virginia Tech Shooting

Larry, Lindsay and I heard the news this morning from Missoula, Montana.  We got the bulk of the details from text messages and monitors in the airport bar.  I wrote a bit about it on the first plane.  Here are some quick excerpts (Not proofread!) before I board my next plane.  It was written the confirmed dead was listed as 29:

My heart breaks in many directions.  I contemplate what it’s like for the parents who sent their bright children off to study to have them killed so callously.  I can’t imagine the difficulty the survivors and just the overall student population will have returning to class.  And I mourn for the perception of our beautiful town.

No one will remember the beauty of our green mountains and trees and our stoic stone buidlings.  No one will remember the beautiful sunsets over the nearby Appalachian Mountains.  Perhaps even Virginia Tech will no longer be synomonous with “Michael Vick”

Rather, when one hears “Virginia Tech” their mind will race to recall the events of this day.

“The Deadliest On-Campus Shooting in U.S. History”

Larry, Lindsay, Ted, Jennifer and I were glued to the television in the airport bar.   Silent and somber, interrupted with the beeping of our cell phones, bearing details from home that hadn’t quite made it to CNN yet.

Larry watching news in an airport bar

Watching news from Missoula Airport.  I always wear Virginia Tech clothing when I travel.

The news doesn’t make me reluctant to return.  Rather I wish I was already home– so I can embrace Sean, pet the dogs and feel as sad as I want in the privacy of my own home.

It’s been very surreal watching the details trickle in 2000 miles away.  At moments, it can feel so real.  Other moments, it feels so distant.

There has been an advantage of being so far away.  I’ve got to witness the reaction of the country.  CNN had uninterrupted coverage.  President Bush offered his prayers to the families.  But the image that will remain with me is at the gate in Missoula Airport.  I tore my eyes away from the television briefly to look at my surroundings.  There were a number of people at the gate who also had their eyes affixed to the television.

Two men even walked up, stood underneath the television so as to hear better.

There were strangers.  These aren’t people from Virginia.  These aren’t people who attended our university.  Some of these people may not have even heard of Virginia Tech because it doesn’t have a competitive ice hockey team.  But 2300 miles away, they are sadly watching the reports.

They share our heartache, they share our disbelief, they share our pain.

Blacksburg, Virginia is not alone today.  Montana is with us.

I have to go and catch another flight.  My heart still goes out to all the affected families and to all the students and faculty who’ll have trouble resting tonight.  I wish I knew what else there was so say.  I think a sad face sums it up the best.


April 16, 2007 at 6:44 pm 2 comments

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