I’m at Virginia Tech to participate in a symposium on the Judeo-Christian tradition and yesterday had a chance to visit the memorial erected to the victims of the April 16, 2007 massacre perpetrated on campus by Seung-Hui Cho, a mentally disturbed student. The memorial sits at the head of the the Drillfield, the large open space so named because VT has long been a military school, now counting some 1,000 cadets among its undergraduates. There’s are 300-pound gray dolomite “Hokiestones” for each victim, arranged in a semi-circle, some with pebbles on top that have been left by visitors in a custom most familiar from Jewish cemeteries.
I picked up the pamphlet describing the memorial featuring photos and brief bios of the 32 who died, accompanied by “We Remember Them,” a poem identified as coming from Gates of Prayer. That’s the new Reform Jewish prayer book, and the poem turns out to have been written by Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, who was the first Jewish chaplain to serve in the Marine Corps, and who became famous for ministering to the troops at Iwo Jipril, the university celebrates Jewish Awareness Month. It seems that the Judeo-Christian tradition is alive and well in Blacksburg.