Ichabods honor Hokies lost in tragedy

Danielle Smith

Flickering flames drew a crowd together outside on campus last Monday evening.

At 8:15 p.m. April 16, the Washburn Student Government Association sponsored a candlelight vigil around the Kuehne Bell Tower for the victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech that morning. The effects of the tragedy are being felt across campuses nationwide.

“I’ve always felt safe at Washburn,” said Jamie Stevenson, Washburn student, “My mom’s more worried than me because I live on campus.”

The events at Virginia Tech have caused Washburn to expand on existing policies as well as the Crisis Emergency Event Manual, which helps all Washburn officials to become familiar with the incident command system.

“It will help everyone to talk in the same language,” said Darrell Dibbern, director of risk management and safety.

Washburn’s executive staff is in the process of discussing plans, while in contact with local law enforcement. Campus communication has been improved with the police department’s addition of an 800 MHz radio system that puts them in direct contact with local law enforcement and emergency services.

“It’s made me more cautious and vigilant. I think we all are,” said Tom Averill, English professor.

Currently, Washburn Risk Management and Safety is looking into new emergency communication devices, such as a system that sends a text message to the cell phones of students and faculty who’s numbers are entered into the program. Another possible communication system is a square, battery-operated wall fixture that lights up, flashes and displays a description of the emergency on a digital screen. All Washburn employees are given an employee safety handbook that Dibbern hopes to soon start distributing to the students as well. Washburn Risk Management hopes the use of systems such as these will help prepare the campus for future emergencies.

Monday night’s vigil was open to the public as well as Washburn students who wanted to show their love and support to those of Virginia Tech. The crowd heard words from Jerry Farley, university president, and Vince Bowhay, newly elected WSGA president. After brief words and moments of silence, the bells were chimed as people embraced and placed their blown out candles in a pile under the bell tower. Students signed banners with messages of hope that will be sent to the students of Virginia Tech, as maroon and orange ribbons were handed out in support of the school.

At 11 a.m. April 20, the bells were rung 32 times as a national honor to those killed, while the Washburn community wore maroon and orange to participate in “Hokie Hope.”

“Personal awareness is the biggest thing,” said Dibbern. “If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. Don’t be afraid to call the police.”

Washburn counseling services are available to all students, faculty and staff affected by the shooting. They are located in Morgan 123 and can be reached at (785) 670-1450.