Virginia Tech Bands Together To Heal

Student Elizabeth Tosten, 19, from Yorktown, Va., center, takes part in a candlelight vigil following the shootings on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., Tuesday, April 17, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Virginia Tech students and supporters lifted thousands of candles to a sapphire sky to remember the 32 people killed by a campus gunman.

The vigil Tuesday evening testified to the unity on which the mountain campus prides itself. But in the hours after Cho Seung-Hui's rampage, it was obvious the close-knit school was a community of which he never felt a part.

With classes canceled for the rest of the week, many students left town in a hurry, lugging pillows, sleeping bags and backpacks down the sidewalks.

On Tuesday night, thousands of Virginia Tech students, faculty and area residents poured into the center of campus to grieve together. Volunteers passed out thousands of candles in paper cups, donated from around the country. Then, as the flames flickered, speakers urged them to find solace in one another.

Drained and exhausted, students struggled to comprehend Monday's massacre, CBS' The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith observed, adding, "Everyone here has been wounded."

Earlier in the day, thousands gathered in the basketball arena, and when it filled up, thousands more filed into the football stadium, for a memorial service for the victims.

"We have come together today to remember the cherished and innocent members of the Virginia Tech family whose lives were so abruptly ended in the senseless act," said Zenobia Hikes, vice president of student affairs.

"We will eventually recover, but we will never, ever forget."

A counseling hotline is taking calls from students and families, grief counselors are meeting one on one, and churches are holding services, reported CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras.

President Bush was in attendance and offered his sympathies to the campus.

Click here for an interactive gallery of the victims.

"On this terrible day of mourning it's hard to imagine a time will come when life at Virginia Tech will return to normal," Mr. Bush said. "But such a day will come."

As silence spread across the grassy bowl of the drill field, a pair of trumpets began to play taps. A few in the crowd began to sing Amazing Grace.

Afterward, students, some weeping, others holding each other for support, gathered around makeshift memorials, filling banners and plywood boards with messages belying their pain.

"Our hearts will be heavy, our tears will fall and our questions never really answered," one wrote.

"I think this is something that will take a while. It still hasn't hit a lot of people yet," said Amber McGee, a freshman from Wytheville, Virginia.

As this campus takes stock of the tragedy, it will be forced to confront the thinking that drove Cho's rage.

Cho, who turned his gun on himself after carrying out the worst shooting massacre in modern U.S. history, was a sullen loner who left a rambling note raging against women and rich kids. News reports said that Cho, a 23-year-old senior majoring in English, may have been taking medication for depression and that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic.

Professors and classmates were alarmed by his class writings — pages filled with twisted, violence-drenched writing.

In screenplays he wrote for a class last fall, characters throw hammers and attack with chainsaws, said a student who attended Virginia Tech last fall. In another, Cho concocted a tale of students who fantasize about stalking and killing a teacher who sexually molested them.

"When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare," former classmate Ian MacFarlane, now an AOL employee, wrote in a blog posted on an AOL Web site.

"The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of."

He said he and other students "were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter."
  • Sean Alfano

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