The tragic events of April 16, 2007 forever changed the lives of Virginia Tech student-athletes. During the days surrounding the events, as Hokie student-athletes we received an outpouring of support and encouragement from other members of the "Hokie Nation" but we also received unexpected concern and acts of kindness from our ACC counterparts.
Hokie outfielder Steve Bumbry recounts what it was like to participate in the first major event on campus, athletically or otherwise, following the tragedy.
"After three days of silence on campus, the baseball team was first to start getting life back to normal on campus. We had a team practice scheduled on Thursday, April 19th in order to get ready to play our weekend series against the Miami Hurricanes the following night. The environment in the locker room was not the typical lively mood that we were accustomed to. There wasn't much conversation between the players, and there was no TV or music in the background. At the beginning of practice, head coach Pete Hughes brought the team together for a prayer and a moment of silence. The practice went on in the spirit of the 32 classmates and friends who were no longer with us. Friday, April 20th marked the first home athletic event since the shootings. A record crowd of over 3,000 fans poured through the gates of English Field in support of the victims, the University, the baseball team, and the Virginia Tech community. It was unlike anything I could have imagined when I ran out onto the field and saw and heard the crowd cheering for the Hokies. There were echoes of "Let's Go Hokies" that rang throughout the game and it helped make our team realize that we weren't actually playing the game for ourselves but we were playing for something much larger. We were playing for 32 "Hokie family members" who were now gone. The Hurricanes showed unbelievable sportsmanship throughout the weekend. In baseball, there is typically very little interaction between the players while between the lines. But that weekend turned out to be different. The UM team seemed to be more friendly and open about establishing small conversations with our players while we were playing. The players and coaches expressed their sympathy for our Virginia Tech community to each and every one of the members of the Virginia Tech team. The University of Miami also made a donation to the Virginia Tech relief fund as a token of their sympathy for the situation. The Hurricanes, Virginia Tech community and fans, and the Athletics Department really banded together and as a group to help our school get back on its feet after April 16th."
Beth Walker and Jenna Rhodes, two members from Virginia Tech's softball team, share first-hand accounts of what it was like to return to the field following the tragedy.
| The Virginia Tech women's lacrosse team
"Looking back on the tragic events of April 16th, softball was our team's rock. When the media frenzy hit our small little town of Blacksburg, it made what was happening even harder to believe, but we decided to stick it out as a team in order to bear the tragedy together and carry each other's loads. We tried to stay in routine as best we could by going to practices, but perhaps all we truly wanted was to feel the connection amongst fellow teammates and Hokies who knew that same pain that we felt inside. Our first ACC game back was against Maryland on April 21st, just five days after the shootings. We were all anxious to get back into ACC play, and at the very least to obtain some sense of normalcy in all the chaos, while at the same time carrying in our hearts the memories of our fellow Hokies. Maryland softball helped to share the sorrow felt not only by us, but all of the Hokie Nation. They presented us with key chains with the word "strength" and Virginia Tech t-shirts with a ribbon and the unforgettable date. Throughout the rest of ACC play, every ACC school either had a moment of silence for our fallen Hokies or had a VT sticker or ribbon on their uniforms while playing. Added to that, there were countless "we're thinking of you" and "you're in our prayers" sayings from every ACC school, which were so comforting. We know there were hundreds of other acts of sportsmanship for our other teams here at Tech, but we had first-hand experience with those in our softball community. We, as a team, cannot thank the ACC schools enough for all of their selfless acts of sportsmanship above and beyond what we could have ever imagined."
In the wake of such a tragic event, sports aided our recovery as a community. Competition gave us not only an opportunity to unite but also an opportunity to establish new memories together. However, in an unexpected way, the sportsmanship of our athletic opponents aided our recovery as well. Their thoughtfulness helped close wounds opened through tragedy.