Review: April 16th: Virginia Tech Remembers

Friday, April 16, 2010

Title: April 16th: Virginia Tech Remembers
First Published: August 2007
Publisher: Plume Books
Source: Library
323 pages




On the flap
Monday, April 16, 2007 started like any other Monday at Virginia Tech, with professors and students preparing for another busy week of classes. However, word quickly circulated of a shooting in the dorms - and the gunman was still loose. The campus went into lockdown, and as the gruesome events unfolded in Norris Hall, a group of journalism students trapped in a nearby building transmitted stories and updates to the student-run website, PlanetBlacksburg.com.

Now, these students, together with their journalism instructor and members of the Virginia Tech community, have documented the events of that day. April 16th: Virginia Tech Remembers gives a voice to the students, faculty, and staff who lived through the shooting, and serves as a memorial for the 32 victims. The book also describes the onslaught of media coverage that immediately followed, and reveals the remarkable resilience of the students of Virginia Tech throughout the entire ordeal.


You will notice that I do not mention any author for this book. If you look at the book cover, there is no author mentioned. This book was edited by Roland Lazenby, a faculty member at Virginia Tech's Department of Communication based on several eye-witness accounts and interviews. A few students from his media writing class were also involved in gathering news of the tragedy as it unfolded, and this book is compiled from those new items as well.

My opinion
April 16th: Virginia Tech Remembers is a record of the events of that tragic day when Seung-Hui Cho killed 27 students and 5 faculty members. It is not a book analyzing the right and wrong decisions that were taken on that fateful day. For that I am thankful. A lot has been said and publicized about this event that this shooting requires no introduction. I won't be bringing up that event in this post, but only what I thought about this book. For those of you interested in knowing what happened, check out some of these archives.

Over the past three years, I have read a lot of articles about this shooting. Eye-witness accounts, survivor accounts. Interviews with parents, police and university officials. The suits filed against Virginia Tech. I was hoping this book will not go into any of the sad events that followed the shooting. I was looking for an account of that day and the following few hours. I was sure I will be crying. What I didn't expect was that this book would also have me feeling uplifted.

The start is very powerful. There were so many parts that were very hard to read. By now, I already knew the names of most of the victims and survivors. Hence, reading wasn't easy. But amidst the deaths, there were several stories of heroism and courage - in how Holocaust survivor, Liviu Librescu persuaded his students to escape while he barricaded the door; in how Kevin Granata decided to go downstairs and try to prevent the shootings; in how the students of some classes held the door closed to prevent the shooter entry; in how they helped their classmates through the terror that lasted just 10 minutes but felt like a lifetime; in how they tried to stop themselves and their friends from bleeding to death through their injuries.

The book also includes accounts of how Roland Lazenby's class of students in another building set up an improvised news center to report the tragedy to the world outside with accurate information as and when available. It shows how some of the survivors managed to battle their demons and fears after the shooting. It gave a glimpse of how one pair of parents tried to find solace and comfort in their late daughter's belief of forgiveness. It showed how the media exploited the event and the outpouring of sadness to sell some sensational stories. In all these events, I managed to see hope. Hope for the future, hope for the community, hope for recovery. It has been three years but this is not something that will ever be forgotten at Virginia Tech.

Overall, this is a book that I will strongly recommend. I did have fears that I will not be able to read it or that I will feel depressed at the end. On the contrary, this book gave me closure. It is in so many ways a means to give hope and trust to the reader.

Today, we have a Day of Remembrance at our campus. There is a 3.2 mile run in Remembrance and a candlelight vigil, in addition to a few other events too.

10 comments:

Jennifer G. said...

Great review, Aths. I didn't realize it had been three years already. It feels like it was just yesterday. I'm glad that the book managed to give hope and avoid all the finger-pointing and accusations.

bermudaonion said...

I remember the tragedy like it was yesterday because it hit very close to home for us. I had tears in my eyes as I read this post.

I must tell you that after the tragedy, our son chose to stay at Tech with his friends (we lived 8 hours away at the time) - since we couldn't see him, we made sure we talked to him every single day. One of the things he kept saying over and over was that he wished the press would leave, so they could begin healing in private.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

You read the coolest books :)

Lynne said...

Thanks for this review, Aths. I'm going to add it to my tbr. I know I'll love it.

Chris said...

What a terrible tragedy. We have a day like that in Canada for the women who killed at Polytechnique many years ago. It's sad that these things keep happening.

Emidy said...

What an emotional book. It's good to hear that it's not depressing, though. Thanks for an awesome review.

Lisa said...

The way this community reacted to this terrible incident is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I've never seen this book; thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Lina said...

Great, hearfelt review. I'm not very familiar with the details of the shooting but I do remember being rendered speechless when I read about it on CNN.

brichtabooks said...

I remember so clearly sitting in my first grad school class when this was going on. It really seems like yesteray. I also think I was reading the book 19 Minutes at the time, about a high school shooting. As sad as the topic is, I'm glad this was able to give you some kind of closure.

Aths said...

Jennifer, I felt the same, I was surprised it has been 3 years too.

Kathy, the press really made things difficult. I am reading Columbine now, and I get the same impression. It is so callous of them to hound the school and its students after such a tragedy.

Juju, I hope you choose to read it.

Lynne, I'm sure you will, especially judging from the books you usually read.

Chris, I agree. I hope this stops. The violence is so heart-breaking.

Emidy, you are welcome. I was glad it isn't depressing.

Lisa, ditto! The community was my hero. The way they come together is so powerful.

Lina, that was my first introduction to the tragedy as well. The TV. All those images. Reading this book now makes me think of how the press literally hounded the school.

Julie, Nineteen Minutes was sad too. I'm glad this book gave me closure.