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OCC shows support for those struck by tragedy

College holds convocation in memory of 32 victims of massacre at Virginia Tech.

April 20, 2007|By Michael Miller

OCC CAMPUS — More than 100 students and faculty members joined hands around the Orange Coast College's quad Thursday at noon, as the school held a convocation in memory of the victims of Monday's shooting at Virginia Tech.

The convocation, hosted by OCC Foundation executive director Doug Bennett, was the first that the school had held since 2001, when it honored the 9/11 victims. College President Bob Dees and student body President Lynne Riddle were among those speaking, while dozens of attendees signed a pair of paper banners that the college planned to mail to the Virginia campus.

"Virginia Tech is over 2,000 miles away from OCC," Dees told the crowd. "The 32 victims are strangers to us. They were even strangers on their own campus of 25,000. But today, we gather together at this spot, just as people are gathering all across America."

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Afterward, Dees read the names of those killed in the massacre, along with short descriptions of them that he said came from a memorial website. The tributes included descriptions such as "Loving father at the top of his field" to "Best guy to take home to your parents" to "Destined to be extremely successful."

Dees reminded the audience that Seung-Hui Cho, the shooter in the killings, had sought nationwide media attention, and that the best response to his acts would be a show of strength and solidarity.

"We are indeed hurt by his actions, grievously hurt," he said. "But we are not destroyed."

Riddle, who punctuated her speech by uttering the word "senseless," urged her classmates to take the aftermath of the shooting as an opportunity for positive change.

"Here's the challenge to us: Out of this senselessness, will I — will we — make ourselves instruments of peace?" she said.

After student Michael Makardish sang "Lean on Me," a number of people gathered around tables at the back of the quad to sign the banners. Professor Irini Vallera-Rickerson said she was glad to see people bonding after the shooting — and wished that it happened more often in peacetime.

"We always wait for a tragedy to bring us together," she said.

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