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CNNU: Students mourn with Virginia Tech

Story Highlights

• Schools across the country held candlelight vigils
• Students use to express sorrow
• College students search for information on friends and family
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Editor's note: CNNU is a feature that provides student perspectives on news and trends from colleges across the United States. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the schools where the campus correspondents are based. Contributors Tracy Boyer is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Phillip Lucas is a student at Howard University in Washington; Melissa Domsic is a Michigan State University student studying in Spain.

(CNN) -- "Today, we are all Hokies."

That is the sentiment of students across the nation as they begin to come to terms with this week's tragedy at Virginia Tech.

Hundreds of groups, some even with more than 14,500 members, have been created in support of the victims and families.

Students at other universities have produced emblems joining Virginia Tech's logo with their own in a sign of solidarity.

In a joint decision, the 12 schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which includes Virginia Tech, held candlelight vigils Tuesday evening to reflect on Monday's events.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC students and Virginians Alison Linas and Stephanie Berman decided to help organize the event.

"We felt so helpless that this was the only thing that we could think to do to make a difference and use our nervous energy," Linas said.

UNC's student body president, Eve Carson, was moved by the hundreds of students who attended the vigil to grieve and show support for the Virginia Tech students.

"I just wanted the entire UNC community to have time to be together and reflect on this and reflect on what it means to be a Tar Heel," she said.

The mood was somber as students lit candles in silence, with only muffled sniffles filling the air.

One of the students in the crowd, Chris Balga, was personally affected by the shootings on the Blacksburg, Virginia, campus.

"I did know someone that luckily escaped, even though the professor was killed," he said. "She was one of the ones that jumped out of the window, so I'm really glad to see her still alive."

In thinking about security at UNC, Carson agrees that more needs to be done to protect her school from having a similar tragedy occur.

"The next step is not only do we need to be having vigils, but we need to be thinking about how we are going to communicate urgent notices to our student body," she said.

At Howard University in Washington, flags flew at half-staff.

Howard freshman Christina Burton, a print journalism major, spent part of Monday trying to find out information about her cousin Trisha Ford, a 20-year-old Virginia Tech sophomore.

Burton was among those attending the vigil on Howard's main yard Monday under stormy conditions to mourn for the victims and show support for the families affected by the shootings.

"We were all excessively worried at first -- my mom, myself, my aunt -- but as they announced that they identified bodies and informed parents, we began to worry less," Burton said Monday. "It's just the fact that she won't bother to call that's bugging us. I'm sure everything is fine."

By the following day, Burton had received a call from Ford to let her know that she was safe. Ford was leaving class for a trip to South Carolina when she heard the shots ring out, Burton said.

Following the shootings, Burton said students should not take things for granted.

"That person next to you having a bad day, give him or her some words of hope or something. Your words could be the reason that switch doesn't go off in their head and they shoot up your school," she said.

A group of students studying overseas also had a moment of silence before class Tuesday afternoon in Valencia, Spain. About 90 students are spending the semester studying at the University of Virginia's Hispanic Studies program in Valencia.

Just returning from break, many of those students didn't hear about the shootings until Tuesday morning. Others learned of it earlier from friends or local news. Large graphic photos of police carrying a victim appeared in many Spanish newspapers.

Ben Ashton, whose dad works at the Virginia Tech registrar's office, heard about the shootings on television.

"I had a feeling he was OK, but I ran to the Internet place to call him," said Ashton, a political science junior at Davidson College in North Carolina.

Suzie Wright also went to an Internet cafe to check and make sure her friends were OK.

Wright is a political science and Spanish sophomore at the University of Virginia.

"Even though it doesn't really touch me personally, it did hit me emotionally because it's such a senseless act, and it was so close to my school. It could have happened to my friends," she said.


Students hold candles Tuesday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.




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