As the thousands drifted away from the candlelight vigil on the Virginia Tech drillfield Tuesday evening, a song rose from a circle of two dozen lights.
"O mothers, let’s go down. Come on down, don't you wanna go down? O mothers, let’s go down. Down in the river to pray..."
We had a very surreal moment over a quick dinner at a pub in Blacksburg, Va., tonight.
Correspondent Don Teague and I entered the restaurant to grab a bite to eat and see if we could find a TV to watch NBC Nightly News. Inside music was playing, beer was flowing and pool balls were flying. On the surface, it seemed like a typical happy hour in a typical college town. But, then it was 6:30 p.m. and someone at a nearby table asked the waiter if one of the TV channels could be changed to NBC.
For Neil Steiner, a doctoral student in electrical engineering who has been studying at Virginia Tech for seven years, watching Tuesday’s convocation with thousands of other students and parents in the university’s sun-filled football stadium was the perfect salve for a very bad hurt.
The mood inside the usually jubilant stadium was stoic. The intermittent silences when the sound went out on the Jumbotron broadcasting the convocation taking place inside the basketball stadium were at times overwhelming.
A Virginia Tech professor said Tuesday that she pleaded with gunman Cho Seung-Hui to see university counselors when it became apparent he was sinking into depression, but couldn’t persuade him to seek help.
“I kept saying, ‘Please go to counseling; I will take you to counseling,’ because he was so depressed,” said Lucinda Roy, director of creative writing in Virginia Tech’s English Department. “… I was told (by the counselors) that you can’t force anybody to go … so their hands were tied too.”
Tuesday’s convocation at Virginia Tech provided an opportunity for members of the Hokie Nation to show their support for university President Charles Steger, who has come under criticism for the delay of more than two hours before an e-mail was sent to students and staff notifying them that there had been a shooting on campus.
As the service in the basketball arena began, a student in section 7 held up a sign reading “Support Steger.”
Students console one another Tuesday at Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium. Matthew Cavanaugh / EPA
Most Saturday afternoons in the fall, Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium is filled with Hokie football fans. On Tuesday, though, it was flooded with students, staff, faculty and community members who came to watch the convocation service on the stadium Jumbotron.
As early arrivals watched the service in the university’s basketball arena, the overflow crowd packed into the football stadium -- almost every one of them wearing the school colors of orange and maroon.
In a tragedy where much attention has been paid to new technology such as text messaging and cell phone videos, what is sometimes considered “old media” is providing "a forum to communicate so healing can begin.”
WXLK-FM, better known as K-92 Roanoke, is covering the news following the horrific shooting at Virginia Tech and providing information on topics such as the availability of counseling services and the location of public memorials. But its most important role may be giving locals a much-needed opportunity to talk about the still-unfathomable incident.
Among those reading at Tuesday’s convocation is Anat Elazari, a graduate student in industrial engineering recruited for her ability to speak Hebrew.
Elazari was to read from Ecclesiastes, or the Kohelet in Hebrew, in honor of Liviu Librescu, 76, an Israeli citizen originally from Romania. The engineering science and mathematics lecturer was shot to death as he attempted to prevent the gunman from entering his classroom.
Military cadets walk up the aisle in the Catholic chapel at Virginia Tech Matthew. Cavanaugh / EPA
Military cadets at Virginia Tech experienced a sad role reversal late Monday when they began taking condolence calls from alumnae serving in Iraq.
The calls started coming in as word spread that Matthew La Port, a sophomore Air Force cadet from Dumont, N.J., was among those killed in the shooting at Norris Hall, said David Wheeler, 22, a senior in the Corps of Cadets who was La Port’s platoon leader last year.
Students are wearing everything in their wardrobes emblazoned with the Virginia Tech logo in what one student described as a “show of support” for the school.
“They love this school,” said Meredith Daly, a freshman from Danville, Va., who lives in Harper Hall, the same dorm as gunman Cho Seung-Hui. “It’s unbelievable how devoted people are to this school.”
As officials, students and families struggle to come to terms with the tragedy at Virginia Tech, a team of MSNBC.com reporters and editors and NBC News producers and correspondents is on the scene.