Blue Crack Addict
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: England by way of 'Murica.
Local Time: 04:46 AM
This was hard for me to read...
Today the local paper had a front page profile on my friend who was shot at Virginia Tech...it was entirely too difficult to get through this article which shows just how fresh this incident still is.
I want to pass it along because like most tragedies, this must NEVER be forgotten, and especially not the victims of it.
VA TECH: Return to Campus
Past follows student on return
Sunday, Aug 19, 2007 - 12:09 AM Updated: 12:48 AM
By JIM NOLAN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Typically, leaving home for college after the summer isn't a big deal by the time you're a junior. But most college students don't arrive carrying two bullets in their body and the inescapable memories of surviving America's deadliest day on campus.
Still, Allison Cook is heading back to Virginia Tech this weekend with her family, filled with anticipation and anxiety, a study in commitment and courage.
Tomorrow, the 19-year-old graduate of Mills Godwin High School will attend her first class since April 16 -- the day Seung-Hui Cho walked into her Intermediate French class in Room 211 in Norris Hall and began shooting.
Cho shot to death Cook's professor, Jocelyne Couture-Nowak. He killed 11 of her classmates and seriously wounded others, including Cook -- shot three times and left for dead with gunshots to the neck, back and side.
"I'm not sure how I'm going to be in a classroom setting," says Cook, wearing a bright-orange Virginia Tech T-shirt while sitting with her father, Paul, last week on the quiet, sun-dappled patio of the family's home in western Henrico County.
"The actual event is always in my mind," she continues. "I'm constantly thinking about the day, the classroom. It's a hard thing to completely erase that from your mind. I think it's just going to be intensified as I go back to campus. But I realize that now, so I'm dealing with it."
. . .
In the tense and frenzied moments following the last shot, Cook lifted herself off the floor of the French classroom and walked out under police escort. She spent several days in a Blacksburg-area hospital for treatment of her wounds and a collapsed lung before returning home in a Henrico ambulance.
Because the bullets posed no immediate threat to her health, doctors opted against invasive surgery to remove one bullet that lodged just under her collarbone and another that ended up behind her right shoulder blade. By the end of May, she had been cleared to resume physical activity.
"I'm doing really well," says Cook, a former basketball player at Godwin who this year spent her fourth summer as a lifeguard at the Fox Hall community pool. "I don't have any pain. Sometimes my shoulder aches when it rains, though.
"I've gotten a lot of hugs."
But Cook still feels the emotional impact of that blustery April morning, sometimes in the most subtle, everyday ways.
She refers to the shooting only as "the incident" or "the event."
When she enters a room for the first time, the first thing she looks for is the exit. "So I know my way out," Cook explains.
An innocuous remark, a small trip, even a home-improvement project have struck chords that resurrect memories of that day for the otherwise laid-back young woman.
There was July Fourth at the Fox Hall pool when a mother talking with Cook and her friend expressed reluctance to see the fireworks at The Diamond following the Richmond Braves game.
"I'd rather be shot than go to the Braves game," the woman said.
"Well, Allison has done both of those," her friend chimed in good-naturedly as the mortified woman remembered Cook's ordeal.
The shooting has also changed how Cook's family interacted with her this summer.
The first time Cook decided to resume running on the treadmill, her twin sister, Hillary, stood right by her side, monitoring her pace, just in case something went wrong.
"My mom was like, 'You can't run as fast as you normally do,'" Cook recalls.
Cook's first trip away from home in late May also caused a degree of family panic when hotel reservations in Washington left her and a friend without a guaranteed room.
"We were basket cases," says Paul Cook, who nearly drove up to take his daughter and her friend home.
Even plans for a kitchen remodeling at the Cook home made Allison uneasy.
"I never really thought about it at the time," says Paul Cook. "The pounding, the sound of the nail guns."
Cook and her family are still struggling to feel completely comfortable in their daily lives.
"I don't think I've reached that point yet," she says. "Just because the event happened so unexpectedly. Everyday life is fine, but I guess I have this fear in the back of my mind that something can happen at any point or anytime."
A major step in her recovery came at the end of June, when she went back to Tech and gave her family a tour of Norris Hall. She recounted the events of the morning of April 16, from the time she entered the building until she rose from among her dead classmates in Room 211 and walked to safety.
"It was a good thing, but a very difficult thing to do," said Cook's mother, Lynn.
. . .
Cook's parents and Hillary, a junior at James Madison University, will accompany her to Blacksburg and stay with her until she feels comfortable on campus. Then on Thursday, Cook will return to Richmond to attend the wedding of her brother, Matt, a University of Virginia graduate.
"Just last month, I felt terrified about going back," she says. "It was coming up so quickly and I wasn't ready at all. Now that it's getting close, I feel I'm almost ready to go back. I'm not as scared as I was, and I'm looking forward to it."
Cook will be in a sorority this year with 30 other young women, including Emily Haas, a friend from home who also was wounded that morning in Room 211.
Haas, a St. Gertrude's School graduate who suffered a gunshot wound to her head, used her cell phone to make the 911 call from the class that brought police to the door just after Cho had taken his own life.
"It's good that she's going to be there," says Cook, who has seen Haas a couple of times this summer. "We have this bond now."
Cook, who wants to go to pharmacy school, will take physics, organic chemistry, psychology -- and French. She wasn't really sure that she wanted to continue taking French but was encouraged by her mother to stay with it.
"She said it was a good idea because I like it, I'm decent at it and I had such a good professor in Madame," Cook says, her voice becoming soft as she recalls Couture-Nowak.
"I know she would have wanted me to continue on in French as well."
Cook still says she is proud to be going to Tech and wouldn't think of going to another school. But she and her parents expressed some frustration over what they believe was a gap in communication between school officials and the families of some of the victims earlier during the summer.
"Our biggest concern was what is going to be available to her when she returns to campus," Paul Cook says. "Where can she go, who can she talk to?"
Now, the Cooks say, many of those issues appear to have been addressed.
Today, families will meet with Tech President Charles W. Steger and attend a memorial dedication to the victims. Tomorrow, Cook and thousands of other Tech students will head out of their dorms and apartments and sorority and fraternity houses to their first day of classes.
To be sure, the day will be different in Blacksburg than anywhere else. For the Tech community, it will be another challenge in what could be a lifelong struggle for healing, understanding and peace. Like very few others, Allison Cook will carry more than her books to those classes, perhaps for the rest of her life.
Her therapist has told her there will be good days and bad days, and no real way to predict them. His advice was to take those days in stride and not let the events of April 16 overwhelm her.
While she still carries Cho's bullets in her body, Cook says she's determined not to let his rage stay with her.
"I didn't know him before the event, and I don't know him after the event," Cook says. "So I don't see the point of why he has to stick with me for the rest of my life."