Today is April 16, exactly 12 years after that fateful snowy morning in Blacksburg, Virginia. I had arrived the night before with my classmate Carl for a one-week exchange. We woke up early and decided to take a walk around the Virginia Tech campus. We randomly walked into buildings and at one point, we found ourselves between two building blocks. Either we would walk left, or we would walk right. Based on an architect course that the two of us had taken as an extra course, we decided to go right, into McBryde Hall. A couple of minutes later, shots were being fired in Norris Hall, the building on the left. I had my video camera with me and I started filming the commotion outside from a staircase window.
We thought it was an exercise or something minor. There was no way of knowing why people were running, why they were bleeding or why the guns within law enforcement got bigger and bigger. My footage got on CNN, which opened up a whole new phase of this week. When I got home I was very confused and struggled to understand my own feelings. So, I decided that I would take my footage, go back to Virginia Tech the following year, to talk to those around me as it was happening, but also with those in Sweden, who saw the news article grow bigger and bigger by the minute.
I went back yet another time two years after, but that’s when it started. The monster was born. The project in my head got bigger and more impossible by the week. My hardware wasn’t good enough, the CNN footage of us being interviewed by Soledad O’Brien, Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper would be too expensive, thus making the documentary unfinished and not whole. All of these obstacles were put in front of me, by me. I was afraid to let people down, especially those who are a part of it, including Dane Walker who has composed several pieces and was a great inspiration in taking on the project to begin with.
On this day, 12 years later, I sat down in front of my camera, to talk. To try and reason with myself. For when you say things out loud, the echoing of your thoughts is let out. And as I talked, I started to understand that I need to tell this story, regardless of how close, or not, to the impossible goal it gets. Regardless of my inability. It just needs to be told. Even though it means stepping into the darkness and possibly discovering new and painful feelings that I have not yet discovered from that week in 2007. But along with the tragedy and shock of the shooting, came compassion and friendship. And this needs to be told as well. It is where we can truly learn something.