Virginia Tech Students Leave Messages to Victims and Killer

Roughly two weeks after a mass shooting devastated the campus community, Virginia Tech is a mix of remembrance and recovery.

A grassy patch not far from Norris Hall, the classroom building where 30 of the 32 victims were killed, has become a makeshift memorial site. There, 33 Hokie stones -- one for each victim, and one for the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho -- were strewn with flowers and messages of grief.

"It seems like you were the least deserving out of all of us," an unnamed student said in a note to Maxine Turner. "You already had a job lined up. … Max this shouldn't have happened in our class, especially not to you."

Turner would have graduated with honors May 11.

Student Brittany Martin left a message to her friend Reema Samaha: "I know you're in heaven, dancing with the stars. You will forever be missed."

Birthday balloons bounced in the wind above Austin Cloyd's memorial stone. Cloyd's 19th birthday was Tuesday, a week and a day after the shooting.

The messages at Cho's memorial stone show students struggling between confused grief and a willingness to forgive. Among the flowers and notes, someone left a copy of the Rev. Jerry Falwell's "Resurrection: A Key to Understanding."

"Cho, I wish you had known those whose lives you ended. You would have loved them. Maybe it would have been different. I am trying to forgive," said one message signed Nancy.

Erica, another student, left a poem simply addressed "To Cho."

"Even though you took innocent lives … even though my eyes are tired of crying. … Even though my campus, my home, will never be the same … I forgive you. And I love you."

Elsewhere on campus, students were less forgiving. Shortly after the shooting, one student went through the hallway outside Cho's dorm room in Harper Hall, punching and scratching up the door signs in anger. Cho's stone at the memorial site disappeared earlier this week but had been returned by Wednesday.

At the center of the Drillfield, a tent housed rows of canvas murals and Sharpie markers, inviting students and visitors to write their messages of memory and loss.

To German professor Christopher James Bishop, student Anthony Rose wrote, "You were one of the greatest teachers I had. You made the unbearable 8 a.m. one of the classes that I looked forward to coming to the most."

Peyton Bowman wrote, "32 new angels."

Among the visitors at the site were Virginia Tech alumni and community well-wishers, some of whom had driven across state lines to pay their respects. In the mix of people and prayer, the memorial on the Drillfield had become a tourist stop of reflection and mourning.

In the midst of remembrance, conversation turned to what would become of Norris Hall, which is now fenced off and surrounded by police tape. The university has not announced its plans for the building but intends to open the question to debate.

Multiple student petitions on the Internet have called for the building to be demolished, turned into a memorial or renamed for professor Liviu Librescu. Librescu died holding a door shut while his students jumped out of windows to safety.

"I don't want them to rename it," Virginia Tech sophomore Emily Morrison told ABC News. "My friend died in Norris Hall. It should stay Norris Hall."

"I'm not sure what they'll do with Norris, but I would never want to go back to class there," said another student, a young man in military uniform who did not want to be named.

With the memory fresh and the building in plain site, visitors move through the makeshift memorial site. University officials plan on preserving the mementos, reportedly consulting with the Library of Congress to ensure their preservation.

Meanwhile, if the writing on the mural walls are any measure, the memory of those lost April 16 will last long after the stones are moved and the tent comes down.

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