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Instant messages, e-mail, about a fallen 'personal hero'

By Kristi Keck
CNN
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CNN.com reporter Kristi Keck has been talking with dozens of students in the aftermath of the shootings at Virginia Tech. Here she writes about one exchange that particularly affected her.

BLACKSBURG, Virginia (CNN) -- As I was scrambling to get a story out Tuesday evening I received an instant message from a sophomore I had met met earlier in the day about Ross Alameddine who died in the shooting.

Student: I just found out he died
Student: and he and I were really good friends

Keck: wow, I am so sorry -- how did you find out?

Student: a friend of mine IM'ed [instant messaged] me

And now this student had just instant messaged me. I wasn't sure how to respond.

Then it hit me -- people are learning about the deaths of their friends, peers and teachers in online conversations just like this one. (Watch friends and classmates mourn, celebrate victims Video)

Through this exchange I got a glimpse of what that feels like.

Student: he was in the French class
Student: we used to hang out all of the time
Student: and I was thinking about seeing if he wanted to hang out this weekend

He sent me an e-mail later in the night. The subject line read "Ross."

He, like many others, was using the Internet to reflect about the victims. He wanted to tell me more about his friend. He wanted to make sure I knew what he was like.

Here are excerpts:

"Ross and I became friends last year when I met him while he was tutoring a friend of mine in her room. He was helping her with her linear algebra and calculus. We became close pretty quickly. We used to talk about all sorts of things together, and I could tell that we were always learning from each other."

"He was always teaching me things about how people interact, and how people think. In other words, I felt like he picked up a lot of philosophy from me, and I picked up a lot of sociology from him."

"I already miss going to DX [a late-night campus food joint] with him, where he would get green tea, and I would get french fries. I miss playing video games with him, and learning more and more about computers from him. I miss knowing that he is ok, still occasionally writing poems, and still helping me keep my feet on the ground, where I was usually stuck with my head in the clouds."

"Out of all people I've met, I have the most respect for Ross. He will forever remain a personal hero to me, and I will never forget him."

I sent this student an instant message later on, but in response I received an automated "away" message that read:

"Ross, you are my hero."


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CNN.com reporter Kristi Keck talks with a student about the Virginia Tech shootings via instant messaging.

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