Virginia Tech speaker discusses tragedy aftermath

Ellen Plummer, assistant provost at Virginia Tech, spoke in Baker University Center’s theater about her experiences regarding the April 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. Plummer, who spoke Tuesday, co-authored Implementing Behavioral Threat Assessment on Campus and served on the recovery and support team after the tragedy. (Sarah Kramer | For The Post)

Though the shooting that transpired on Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s campus happened more than five years ago, its university policies and members are still seeing the effects.

On April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on the university’s campus, killing 32 people and then himself.

Julie French of Ohio University’s Student Personnel Association helped arrange a speech by Ellen Plummer, assistant provost at Virginia Tech, at Baker University Center’s theater Tuesday night.

During her speech, Plummer reflected on the difficulty university members had with coping after the shooting. Many students and faculty were shocked, stunned, grief-stricken and overwhelmed, Plummer said.

After the incident, Virginia Tech underwent internal and external reviews and received recommendations for safety policy changes. Suggested precautions included metal detectors in buildings and locking classroom doors, Plummer said.

“I don’t think it could have been prevented,” she said. “I don’t know how many tragedies can be prevented. There is a lot to learn still about firearms, protection of confidential information, etc. This tragedy did not make us experts in campus safety.”

She said that although it was important to determine future safety measures after the shooting, students and university officials also wanted to properly commemorate the students and faculty members who died.

In the days following the shooting, students took stones from a construction site on campus and arranged 32 of them in a circle at the shooting site. She added that someone placed a 33rd stone in the center of the circle to represent the shooter, but that others removed it several times.

Students also arranged a candlelight vigil.

Today, Virginia Tech has a memorial site dedicated to the victims using different stones; the originals were engraved and given to the victims’ families.

Plummer said that although many people were sympathetic, she felt the media disrespected the university’s time of grief, perching in trees to take photos of families in distress and posing as family members in order to get into counselor offices.

“There are still ways in which we can continue to learn from and share experiences we’ve had,” Plummer said.

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