Candlelight vigils and somber ceremonies marked the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting on the campus of a U.S. university, Virginia Tech, that left 32 people and the gunman dead. From Washington, VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, the incident was one of the worst attacks of its kind in U.S. history - one that reignited debate over security measures at American schools.
Thousands gathered at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in remembrance of the university students and staff who perished during a gun rampage committed by a mentally unstable pupil, Seung-Hui Cho, a U.S. resident from South Korea.
One by one, names of the victims were read, along with tributes to the dead. Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said the university has struggled to recover from the tragedy - a process that continues to this day.
"It has been a difficult road; it has been a hard journey, indeed," Steger said. "It began with shock and trauma and a flood of emotions. And in the ensuing days and weeks and months, we have searched for answers. We have searched for meaning in what is incomprehensible. What is at the heart of this day is not public. Rather, it is a very private and profound loss. We know intently what the people we lost meant to us, and we are more keenly aware of how they touched and changed our lives."
Speaking afterwards, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine said he continues to feel sorrow over the events of a year ago, as well as pride and admiration for the Virginia Tech community as it endeavors to heal and continue its mission.
Although far from commonplace, school shootings have periodically marred America's educational landscape over the years. In 1999, two Colorado high school students killed 13 people and wounded 24 others before committing suicide. This past February, a gunman killed five people and wounded 18 others at Northern Illinois University.
In light of the violence, many schools have reviewed security measures and placed additional emphasis on programs to identify and counsel students who may be struggling with psychological disorders. In addition, a few university students have started a campaign urging that students and faculty be permitted to bring firearms on campus for self-defense. Few, if any, school administrators have endorsed the idea.