Penn State Wilkes-Barre students and faculty members read the names of students killed at Virginia Tech.
Penn State Wilkes-Barre students Kayla Smith, left, and Tiffany Velez look at photographs and read biographies of the 32 slain Virginia Tech students and faculty during a memorial service Wednesday afternoon.TIMES LEADER STAFF PHOTOs/S. JOHN WILKIN
LEHMAN TWP. – Penn State Wilkes-Barre honored the 32 fallen Virginia Tech students and professors killed during a deadly rampage earlier this month.
“Penn State just wanted Virginia Tech to know that we are there for them,” said Melissa Sulima, a senior administration of justice major who organized Wednesday’s memorial at Hayfield House.
“Some of those young lives taken away really touched me and it was so hard not to do anything. To look at these students and realize they are so similar to me is heartbreaking,” Sulima said.
During the program, the names and short biographies of each victim was read aloud before candles were blown out, signifying the lives cut short on the Blacksburg, Va., campus.
Outside, a bell tolled to commemorate each victim as students, faculty and administrators encircled the flagpole where flags flew at half-staff. Then participants left a maroon or orange carnation around the flagpole.
Director of Student and Enrollment Services Kathie Flanagan-Herstek said it was important this was a student-organized event.
“Students were so shaken by this it helps them understand ways to pour out their feelings constructively,” Flanagan-Herstek said.
“Rather than have this be an administration top-down plan, I wanted them to say this makes sense. This is sensitive. This helps us feel that we are really participants, not just attendants.”
One of Penn State’s own, Jeremy Herbstritt, was killed during the rampage. Herbstritt graduated with two degrees from Penn State before starting graduate work in civil engineering at Virginia Tech.
Money raised through the sale of maroon and orange ribbon pins will be donated to Tech’s “Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund,” a general fund to help the victims’ families. A banner signed by students will be sent to the student affairs or student government organization at Virginia Tech.
Call 675-9279 or mail checks to:
Pennsylvania State University Wilkes Barre, P.O. Box PSU
Lehman, PA 18627