For Virginia Tech sophomore Trey Perkins, coming back to school was a kind of catharsis.
After five days at home, Perkins and his friends drove back to his apartment just off campus, relieved in a way to return to the rituals of college life.
"Just to be back on campus and to get back to classes," he said, "to not let this completely change everything, change my world, to just get back to this community, this campus."
A week ago, Perkins was on the second floor of Norris Hall, room 207, for his elementary German class. He was fortunate to survive, but four of his classmates and his professor, Chris Bishop, did not. Today, in another building, Perkins and some of the other survivors held that German class for the first time since that awful morning.
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For Danica Van Horn, a Virginia Tech freshman from a small town in Vermont, coming back to campus meant returning to her dorm, West Ambler Johnston, the building where Seung-Hui Cho began his rampage and killed freshman Emily Hilscher and popular resident adviser Ryan Clark.
"It is hard to come back this week," Van Horn said, "but at the same time, I think the best way to face something like this is to come back and face it and not run away."
'We'll Never Forget This'
So today they returned, Van Horn, Perkins and thousands of their classmates. They came back seeking relief in the routine of campus life and comfort in a community that shares their state of mind and understands their grief.
"It's good to get back to school and in a routine," Perkins said. "We'll never forget this."
Like most Virginia Tech students, Perkins took much of last week off and went home to see his family. But it was not until he was at his home in Yorktown, Va., in the familiar surroundings of family and friends, that the enormity of what he had witnessed, a mass murder, finally got to him.
"It hadn't hit me yet, the magnitude of what happened," he said. "Really on an emotional level, it hadn't hit me. When I got home on Wednesday and speaking with some friends and family, it really started to sink in. I was really upset for a while."
On his Facebook page, messages poured in from around the world, and all weekend long, neighbors and friends kept stopping by.
'I Just Did What I Had to Do'
Perkins spent a couple of days just hanging out with his friends, joking around as college students do. But their conversation always turned back to those few fateful moments last week, April 16.
"Well, you're in that situation, you don't question, you feel it," Perkins said. "There's something there. You can feel it. It's hard to describe to people."
Perkins and a fellow classmate blocked the door to the classroom, preventing even more slaughter before turning their attention to the wounded and dying.
At home, he wouldn't hear of any hero talk.
"That's probably the one that's the most awkward," Perkins said. "Because I don't think I did anything like that. I think I just did what I had to. And I think other people who gave their lives to save people, I think they're the real heroes."
During those five days at home, some of his classmates were buried, and the funerals continued today. During that time, back on campus, the sorrow was tempered by an outpouring of school spirit. At the bookstore anything in maroon and orange -- the colors of Virginia Tech -- flew off the shelves.
David Peng, a senior, dyed his hair to match the school colors. Even tattoo parlors were spilling Hokie ink.
Reluctant to Let Go
Soon enough, it was time for Perkins to head back to campus. After a hug from his mother, he was off with his buddies for the four-hour road trip, leaving his parents behind to worry. Despite their concerns they're still planning to send Perkins' younger brother Daniel to Virginia Tech in the fall.
"It was really hard to let him go back but this is what he wanted to do," said Perkins' mother, Sheree. "We offered to go back with him and he didn't want that. He wants to go back and go to his classes and see some people."
But his father fears for those moments when his friends are not around.
"That's what we worry about the most," said Perkins' father, Donald. "I know as he goes to college, he'll still have friends and family to talk to and all that, but at night, he's alone, and that's when those images will come back. And that's what we fear. When he's alone … nightmares."
Like all the Virginia Tech students, Trey now has the option of keeping his current grades for the semester, finishing some of his class work or completing all of it.
On Monday afternoon, after a long, difficult day on campus, he headed back to his apartment. Beyond his studies, he wants to help raise money for the families of victims and join the campus conversation about a proper memorial.
Like so many others here, he has hard questions about what exactly happened on April 16, and why. But now is not the time for that, he says. Not until his community can come together, grieve for its heavy losses and begin to heal.