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Impact of Virginia Tech Shootings Felt Worldwide

April 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM EST
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JIM LEHRER: The effects of the shootings were felt worldwide. Several of the victims came from international backgrounds. Today in London, British Prime Minister Blair offered condolences.

TONY BLAIR, Prime Minister of Britain: I would like to express on behalf of Britain and the British people our profound sadness at what has happened and to send the American people and, most especially of course, the families of the victims our sympathy and our prayers.

JIM LEHRER: In South Korea, the sympathy was mixed with concern, after the gunman was identified as a South Korean. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said he hoped the incident won’t “stir up racial prejudice.”

CHO BYUNG-JE, Foreign Ministry Spokesman, South Korea: We here in Korea also were very much shocked at the horrific incident and we Korean people in the Korean government would like to express our heartfelt condolences to the victims and to the bereaved families and to the American people.

JIM LEHRER: The availability of guns in the United States also drew criticism in a number of foreign newspapers. In London, the Independent said, “It would be vain to hope that even so destructive a crime as this would cool the American ardor for guns.” And in Paris, the newspaper Le Monde said such violence only taints the image of the “American dream.”

Excerpts from convocation

As I reported earlier, this afternoon, the president and Mrs. Bush joined university officials and thousands of Virginia Tech students for a campus convocation. Here are extended excerpts.

ZENOBIA HIKES, Vice President for Student Affairs, Virginia Tech: 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 that has left us all reeling in excruciating grief.

As we share our sorrow, we collectively pay tribute to these young, gifted minds who came to Virginia Tech searching for knowledge and understanding, and to these dedicated, talented professors who sought to impact that knowledge and enhance that understanding.

Today, the world shares our sorrow and pays tribute with us. With the help and support of each other and our brothers and sisters all over the world, we will eventually recover, but we will never, ever forget.

CHARLES STEGER, Virginia Tech President: In the last day, I've expressed my horror and shock, but there are really no words that truly express the depth of sadness that we feel. In fact, words are very weak symbols of our true emotions at times such as this.

It's overwhelming, almost paralyzing, yet our hearts and our minds call to us to come together to share our individual attempts to comprehend the incomprehensible, to make sense of the senseless, and to find ways for our community to heal, and to slowly and painfully, but inevitably to begin to heal and to again move forward.

Governor Kaine and President Bush

GOV. TIM KAINE (D), Virginia: Let me ask one thing of you, this community, as you wrestle with your sadness, as you wrestle with your own feelings of anger or confusion, as you wrestle with the despair, even you family members who have lost people close to you, do not, do not let hold of that spirit of community that makes Virginia Tech such a special place. Do not lose hold of that.

GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Laura and I have come to Blacksburg today with hearts full of sorrow. This is a day of mourning for the Virginia Tech community, and it is a day of sadness for our entire nation.

We've come to express our sympathy. In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected.

I know many of you feel awfully far away from people you lean on, people you count on during difficult times. But as a dad, I can assure you: A parent's love is never far from their child's heart. And as you draw closer to your own families in the coming days, I ask you to reach out to those who ache for sons and daughters who will never come home.

Religious leaders

JACOB LUTZ, Rector, Virginia Tech Board of Visitors: We are blessed today to have with us four leaders from our local religious community who are here to assist us with our grief and in whose strong hands we place our hearts in this most troubling time.

SEDKI RIAD, Professor, Virginia Tech: In the name of Allah, the most merciful, most compassionate, on behalf of the Muslim community in Blacksburg, and as members of the Blacksburg and the Virginia communities, we express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the innocent victims that we lost yesterday. I stand here to tell you that we are all in pain, all of us here; the children of Adam and Eve, we all unite in pain, and we're all hurt.

JULIE STILL, Living Buddhism, Virginia Tech: In the most terrible manner imaginable, we have been reminded of the immense value of human life. Like you, I have been receiving and sending numerous e-mails and phone calls connecting with family and friends. The emotional stress we are all under is overwhelming.

However, the Dalai Lama has said: It is under the greatest adversity that their exists the greatest potential for good. Now is our opportunity as a community to unite. We must connect with each other, just as we are reconnecting with family and friends.

SUE KURTZ, Hillel Director, Virginia Tech: Let us draw strength from one another to move from a time of violence and sorrow to a time of healing and peace. Let us carry the memories of our friends and teachers with us always so that, in the words of the Jewish tradition, "The memory of the righteous will be a blessing."

REV. BILL KING, Virginia Tech: We cannot undo yesterday's tragic events, but we can sit in patient silence with those who mourn as they seek for a way forward. As we share light one with another, we reclaim our campus. Let us deny death's power to rob us of all that we have loved about Virginia Tech, this, our community. Let us cast our lot with hope in defiance of despair.

English professor Giovanni

NIKKI GIOVANNI, Professor, Virginia Tech: We are Virginia Tech. We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on; we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech. We are strong enough to stand tall, fearlessly. We have brave enough to bend to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech. We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it. But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by a ruled army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water; neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands, being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized.

No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech. The Hokie nation embraces our own and reaches out with open hearts and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid.

We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility. We will continue to invent the future; through our blood and tears, through all this sadness, we are the Hokies. We will prevail; we will prevail; we will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.

AUDIENCE: Let's go Hokies! Let's go Hokies! Let's go Hokies! Let's go Hokies! Let's go Hokies!

JIM LEHRER: The scenes of mourning were repeated at other schools across the country. Last night, impromptu vigils were held at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State and at Texas A&M University, among others.

In the nation's capital, flags were lowered to half-staff at the White House and at the U.S. Capitol building. Congress postponed some of its scheduled events.