A Closer Look at Virginia Tech's Norris Hall Six Years After the Campus Shooting
Roanoke, VA - Governor Bob McDonnell declared Tuesday Virginia Tech Remembrance Day.
Norris Hall was the scene of the vast majority of the murders that day: 31 people, including the shooter, died there. That left mixed emotions about what to do with the building after the grieving began to subside.
Norris Hall is also the home for the fledgling Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, a center that is making progress even as the legacy of the building continues to live on.
Not far from Norris Hall are the stark reminders of what happened on the campus six years ago.
"They wanted to transform the space, at least part of the space, into something more positive so it was decided that part of the space would be used for the Center for Peace Studies," said Hawden, center director.
In the years since, the university decided to take the second floor of the wing where it all happened and flip it inside out, literally gutting it with a vision of rebirth that would come in the form of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. The rest of the building remains pretty much as it did that terrible day.
"We look at everything from domestic violence and street crime to acts of war, genocide... so we look at all aspects of violence," said Hawden.
And while the rebirth of Norris Hall is considered a success in the making, what Norris Hall means on this campus hasn't changed much. Even to a generation of students that came after the massacre.
"Every time I see the name of the hall I think about it. Every time I walk across the drillfield and see the vigil I think about it. It never goes away," said Victoria Travis, a senior.
"The quickest thing that comes to mind is April 16th. But more recently when you walk into those halls there's the Peace and Violence Prevention Center," said Ian Heflin, a graduate student.
Or maybe it has.
Maybe the work being done in the heart of Norris Hall is changing what people see on the outside... even if that change is slow.
"We are pleased with the work we have done... but obviously there is a lot of work to do," said Hawden.
"Eventually it will get to that point where it won't necessarily be the spot where we walk by and just think of all the terrible things - I mean it always will but in a sense it will be a place we think of all the strength and community that has come from it," said Finn Dahl, a sophomore.
The rest of Norris Hall continues to house the Department of Engineering Science and Mathematics. just as it did on the day Norris Hall, in some ways, changed forever.