A powerful pull

Posted: Wednesday, April 18 at 09:23 pm ET by Petra Cahill, MSNBC.com

Bud Kick drove five hours from Gaithersburg, Md., on Wednesday to be with his daughter, Danielle, a 20-year-old sophomore at Virginia Tech. Asked why he waited until two days after Monday’s horrific bloodbath to make the trip, he replied, “She asked me to come.”

The powerful desire to be close to family members in this time of tragedy has brought many parents to the Virginia Tech campus, in some cases simply to pick up devastated students and take them home.

Kick said Danielle initially said she wanted to stay on campus to mourn with her friends and fellow Hokies. But after two days she wanted her dad with her, too.

“I think after the shock and the numbness wore off after the first few days, even us from home … could feel the pain,” said Kick, choking up as he recalled the Tuesday night phone call that put him on the road. “This is a sanctuary for these kids, and it’s changed. I just want to help them through the transition.”

A different sort of familial pull tugged Floridians Chuck and Betty Fontana to the Blacksburg campus.

Chuck, a 1960 graduate who said he arrived on the campus as a 17-year-old fresh from Staten Island, N.Y., and has been “a nut about it” ever since, had to pause to consider when asked what prompted the couple to drive to the campus on Wednesday.

“It’s family,” he said finally.

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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.