It’s been six years since evil was visited upon the campus of Virginia Tech. The students who were here on that horrific day have graduated, starting new chapters in their lives. With every succeeding class, the memories of that day become a little more distant (today’s freshmen, the Class of 2017, were in 8th Grade on April 16, 2007). The remembrance of April 16th remains integral to the Hokie identity, but the emotions associated with it are not nearly as raw as they were even two years ago.
As time has passed, some have taken steps to politicize the April 16th shootings, especially in light of later acts of mass murder. Today, though, doesn’t belong to the activists, but to the victims, and their families, and to every Hokie who has ever braved the cold, January winds that whip across the Drillfield en route to class or clapped along to “Tech Triumph” on a golden Saturday afternoon in Lane Stadium.
Today I want to remember those who lost their lives and those whose lives were drastically changed that day by highlighting the story of a heroic young man, a sophomore—the gunman’s last victim—who exemplified our university’s motto Ut Prosim, “That I May Serve.”
Matthew La Porte was a sophomore from New Jersey. He was in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and was in the Air Force ROTC program. He was a drummer in the regimental band, The Highty Tighties. He was consistently late for morning formation, but a generally good guy. In short, Matthew La Porte was a typical American college student.
Those around him noticed La Porte was maturing rapidly in the structured environment of the Corps. It’s not unthinkable to imagine that God or Providence was preparing La Porte for an important service, one that would save the lives of many of his classmates in that early morning French class.
From the April 15, 2009 issue of the Virginia Tech Collegiate Times:
…Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage in Norris Hall and wounded every person in room 211, Cadet La Porte’s French class. Cho killed 11 students and seriously wounded five more. Professor Couture-Nowak died.
FBI agents…said it seemed La Porte had charged at Cho under fire exactly as he had done during AFSOPT initiation. Armed with a desk, he was wounded at least six times in the chest and once in the hand while attempting to stop the gunman.
His body was found face down, inches away from Cho. La Porte was the last victim the killer faced before committing suicide. He was shot more times than any other victim in room 211.
If you have 10 minutes, read the entire article to learn more about this special young Hokie; I think you will come away inspired, as I was, on this Day of Remembrance.