by Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, Vice President, AIA Strategic Initiatives and Relationships
I feel oddly inadequate to share my thoughts and emotions on hearing of the shootings at Virginia Tech Monday, April 16. There are dozens of parents who have lost a child, hundreds of young people who have lost friends and mentors, and many faculty who have lost gifted colleagues. Throughout the region, across the country, and around the world, we have all been touched deeply. Especially in Virginia and the D.C. area, untold numbers of people have a particularly personal connection to this tragedy. As one, I would like to share these few words.
I graduated from the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies, which is housed in Cowgill Hall, situated a few hundred yards from Norris Hall where 31 students and faculty lost their lives last Monday.
As the story unfolded that day, the place names were all familiar to me. Just hearing the sequences of events brings back memories—tangible experiences—that take me back in my mind to West AJ, where the first two killings occurred; the distant Drillfield, windy and muddy this time of year; and, across that field, hulking neo-Gothic Norris Hall, clad in the dark-granite, rough-hewn, and ubiquitous “Hokie Stone” that gives the campus a quirky aesthetic sense of unity; an aesthetic that is very much a part of the shared Virginia Tech experience.
These memories have long given me a sense of comfort and belonging. Now, the belonging has manifested into a profound sorrow. And, just as people I know have been reaching out to me to offer their comfort, I and others here at the AIA have been reaching out to do what we can to comfort our Tech-affiliated associates.
Early this week, AIA Executive Vice President/CEO Chris McEntee contacted Tech President Charles Steger, FAIA, to offer this Institute’s deepest sympathy. Yes, President Steger is a Fellow of the AIA and the former dean of the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies, where he started his academic career as an architecture school instructor. I have known him for many years as a stalwart supporter of student advancement and well-being, strident advocate of student-body diversity, eloquent facilitator and administrator, and talented architect in his own right. I cannot imagine the pain he is experiencing now.
Please join me by expressing your condolences, grief, memories, and hopes as we try to grasp the magnitude of what has happened and reach out and up toward some transcendent purpose.
What do you think?