Before I turned four, I spent a bunch of time at Virginia Tech and have lots of memories of Blacksburg. My mom used to take me for sundaes in nearby Roanoke. I remember a little girl named Tabitha who lived in our neighborhood who had the same birthday as me. I have a pretty vivid memory of me, my grandfather and my dad trading hats at my dad’s graduation.
After Virginia Tech, my dad got his law degree at American University in D.C. When I was seven, we moved to Brooklyn, but long before I was a Yankees fan I was a Virginia Tech Hokie.
A few days after the shootings, my dad emailed me with some facts I didn’t know about his days at Virginia Tech.
In the spring of 1970 when I was born, my dad was living at Ambler Johnston Hall, the same dormitory where the killing began.
When my dad was a freshman, most of his classes were in Norris Hall, the main engineering administration and classroom building — a building which might never be used again.
He told me about an experience he had which made him decide to transfer out of engineering at the end of his freshman year. He went from his professor’s office to the engineering dean’s office in Norris Hall to request his transfer. He expected that he would get an appointment with someone who would try to talk him out of it and instead the woman behind the counter pulled out an IBM punch card with his name on it and asked what department he wanted to transfer to. He thought for a minute and said math.
She filled out some department codes and he walked out in disbelief. It was like they were expecting him to not tough it out. They had lost a top engineering student and didn’t even care.
Later he realized that all freshman engineering students were effectively “undeclared” and all of them had to choose a more specific engineering major at the end of the year: electrical, civil, aero, mechanical or even math.
So two major changes in my dad’s life were connected those two Virginia Tech buildings: Ambler Johnston Hall and Norris Hall.
As he put it, “Got here from there.”