Ten years after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, the Roanoke Times examines an archive of 90,000 “tokens of comfort and healing” sent to the school after the university’s darkest day. Tech received an outpouring of affection from around the globe in the wake of the April 16, 2007, shootings that left 32 dead and 17 wounded — and countless lives shattered. There were the posters, letters and pieces of art. There were obscure gifts like chain saw carvings and a Mississippi River rock. “We were smothered with love,” says Larry Hincker, the former university spokesman.
The gifts arrived from 80 countries and every state in the U.S. Letters from across the country and around the world found their way to various parts of Blacksburg. They came from students, from prison inmates, from everyday people. Envelopes and packages lacking ZIP codes or street numbers, addressed simply to “Virginia Tech” found their way to campus much like a Christmastime letter bound for the North Pole. Today, the materials are stored at a campus library. Piled on shelves in 517 boxes and slid into 17 map case drawers, the collection takes up more than 500 cubic feet of space. Much of it lives online in the university library’s digital archive. And all of it still serves as a reminder of how the world grieved with Virginia Tech.