Last week’s tragedies produced an inevitable mix of graceful and awkward moments. Nobody prepares for these kinds of things. There is no manual on how to behave, no rules of proper comportment. I left Saturday night with these last moments on my mind, some amazing, some not so.

  • After NBC announced it had the Cho video and manifesto, reporters and cameramen left the press conference. Some walked into the bathroom and could be heard grumbling: “Fuck NBC.”
  • At noon on Friday, a moment of silence on the Drillfield became more than a moment. By 12:07 p.m., university President Dr. Charles W. Steger looked at his watch. He then conferred with a man decked in a maroon suit. After whispering a bit, Steger took a rose from a student memorial and walked up to the memorial’s main hub of flowers, cards and candles and placed the rose among the rest.
  • On Friday night, a mother sat beside her daughter’s memorial stone on the Drillfield. She sobbed. She talked to that stone as if it was her daughter. Her entourage had dwindled to one friend. There were no more grief counselors, Red Cross workers, or Salvation Army coffee cups. “I can’t bury her,” she said. A woman, who looked like a student, walked over to the mother and just sat down and listened.
  • By Friday night, the Drillfield had filled up with memorials, candles, and boards covered with messages from Tech students and beyond. The candles made the field smell like a funeral home.
  • On Saturday afternoon, most of the media had gone home. The media room in the alumni-center wing of the Inn at Virginia Tech was empty except for a half-dozen reporters filing stories. Finishing those stories was made only more difficult by the constant cell phone ring from, I believe, a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter. His ringtone was a Spin Doctors song.
  • On Saturday evening, I got to listen to the Richmond paper’s reporters discuss plans to go play beer pong. Old fat men should not be playing beer pong. Leave those Tech kids alone!