Among the fringe benefits of covering college sports are the campuses and the towns, vibrant, smart and welcoming.
William and Mary’s Wren Building and Williamsburg’s Duke of Gloucester Street; North Carolina’s Bell Tower and Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street; Virginia’s Rotunda and Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall; Duke’s Chapel and Durham’s Warehouse District.
Those are just a few of the dozens of campuses I’ve been privileged to stroll during 30 years in this racket. There’s also CNU and UCLA; Kansas and Kentucky; Washington State and Weber State; Texas and Tennessee; Notre Dame and Boston College; South Carolina and Southern California; Michigan and Miami.
Thanks to its fervent fans and winning football program, one of my most frequent destinations is Virginia Tech. And thanks to the university and Blacksburg communities, it’s become, 300-mile drive notwithstanding, a favorite venue.
The Drillfeld and Duck Pond; the Farmers Market and Main Street galleries; Gillie’s and Cabo Fish Taco.
Most important, the people who inhabit those places. Students and faculty; vegans and late-night burger hounds; athletes, artists, coaches and administrators.
Today I ache for all of them. For the second time in nearly five years they grieve over senseless and deadly gun violence.
The random victim Thursday was Deriek Crouse, 39, a Virginia Tech police officer, Army veteran and, most tragically, father to five children and stepchildren. Crouse was murdered during a routine traffic stop near Cassell Coliseum by a gunman who later killed himself.
“Our hearts are broken again,” university president Charles Steger said, referencing the 2007 campus shootings that claimed 32 innocents.
The scars from that day were evident Thursday afternoon and evening as events and news unfolded in real time on social media such as Twitter. Students, parents and graduates alike were afraid, anxious, stunned and frustrated.
The collective sentiment: How, in heaven’s name, could this happen again at Virginia Tech?
Alas, you’ll find no answer here. Just sympathy and admiration.
Sympathy for your plight. Admiration for your spirit – can anyone forget Nikki Giovanni’s “We are Virginia Tech” sermon of four-plus years ago?
Other student bodies share in Tech’s pain, as well. As in 2007, the University of Virginia reached out, as did another campus recently staggered by unspeakable acts: Penn State.
“I have been, and will continue to be, proud of how you have risen to the occasion time and time again,” Steger wrote in an email to students and faculty Thursday night. “We must also acknowledge that the bond we feel most strongly in these times is borne of sorrow.
“Now, one who had sworn to serve and protect us has fallen, and we can pay no greater tribute than to pledge to serve and protect one another, as the spirit of Ut Prosim [that I may serve] calls us to do.”
Or, as Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas tweeted: “Vt then Vt now Vt always #Hokienation”
During the next few days and weeks, media will resume coverage of Tech’s upcoming Sugar Bowl against Michigan and the basketball team’s preparation for the ACC season. Moreover, the university community will use those events to bond and to heal.
Those of us on the outside, meanwhile, all of us who treasure our families and towns and alma maters, will realize yet again: There but for the grace of God go we.
I can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow me at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDPCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun