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Virginia Tech victim's loved ones fight to tell his story

Story Highlights

• Victim Jeremy Herbstritt described as friendly, talkative, passionate
• Father: "The rest of our life is going to be to celebrate his life"
• Friend: "We may have lost him, but his spirit is certainly with us"
• Herbstritt was a hiker and a biker and ran in marathons
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BLACKSBURG, Virginia (CNN) -- Schoolmates and relatives painted a portrait of Virginia Tech victim Jeremy Herbstritt as a friendly, talkative and passionate man, in stark contrast to his killer Cho Seung-Hui, the deeply troubled and quiet loner.

Their very different lives collided Monday when Cho targeted a classroom building where Jeremy and so many others were following their dreams. Cho shot and killed Herbstritt, police said, along with at least 29 others before taking his own life.

Images of the armed Cho, wearing black gloves and dressed in a khaki vest have been burned on the public consciousness, as has his screed of hateful words targeting the wealthy and privileged. (Watch Jeremy's parents and a friend remember how "he had a good heart" Video)

Jeremy's loved ones are fighting to replace those images with thoughts of their son and other victims of the massacre, by publicly celebrating his legacy.

"The rest of our life is going to be to celebrate his life, to say what he did good," said Jeremy's father, Mike, while fighting back tears. "Jeremy was a good boy, a good man, and we're going to love him forever." (Read a brief profile of Jeremy)

Cho's hateful video message he sent to NBC on the day of the killing targeted people who had "everything" they wanted.

Jeremy's schoolmates offered a very different message of hope from their fallen colleague.

"That message is, 'be passionate, and be passionate about something,'" said Ken Stanton, a friend who lived in the same building as Jeremy. "We may have lost him, but I'll tell you what, his spirit is certainly with us."

Another schoolmate, Gaurav Bansal, said Jeremy "always had uplifting things to say."

They both appeared disgusted by Cho's video they'd seen plastered across the news media. (Watch disturbing video of the gunman talking about his motives Video)

"It's a really sensitive topic, and I'd really rather not get into it," said Stanton. "We want to talk about Jeremy." (Read more about how some have been disgusted by Cho's video)

Friends said the 27-year-old civil engineering graduate student never had a bad thing to say about anyone.

But he did have many words to say. Friends and parents described him as talkative. "Jeremy had a lot of energy," said his mother Peggy Herbstritt.

"From the time he was born and even through graduate school, I don't think he slept more than a couple of hours a day. He loved life."

His father said Jeremy was a hiker and a biker and ran in marathons. He worked as a teaching assistant while pursuing his interest in helping the environment.

Students looked forward to class when they knew Jeremy would be there to teach, his father said.

Jeremy also worked in a program to search for mosquitoes carrying the dangerous West Nile Virus.

"If anybody ever asked Jeremy for some help," said his father, "Jeremy was there to help them."




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