SPECIAL- Alums: Pulling together, coming apart

As the convocation for the 32 slain students and faculty members ended at Virginia Tech on Tuesday, April 17, local Hokie alums said they were waiting to see how they can serve the needs of their fellow area graduates in the wake of the tragedy.

"Everyone wants to do something," says Rob Alley, president of the local Virginia Tech Alumni association, which has 1,500 members in the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Greene, and Louisa counties. The group wanted to wait before deciding how to respond because "When something like this happens, you don't want to have it be negative for people involved," he says.

Alley says that as of Tuesday, he hasn't heard that anyone from Charlottesville was among the injured or slain, but nevertheless the Association will consider making counselors available and holding a memorial service locally, perhaps as soon as this weekend.

Randy Jones, head of the Charlottesville Hokie Club, a social and athletic fundraising group that meets once a month, says he was shocked to hear what happened. His son was one of the original owners of the Virginia Tech/UVA bar called Rivals on Rio Road, and Jones has been a frequent visitor to Blacksburg since his own graduation from the school in 1969. Jones says he also worries that the incident will hurt the school's reputation, though "Hopefully not to the extent that Kent State did."  

While both Jones and Alley spoke freely about the event and their memories of the school, one well-known alum and political activist often quoted in local papers has been more reticent. Cvillenews.com founder and frequent political commentator Waldo Jaquith, who graduated from Virginia Tech in December 2005, has made no mention of the tragedy on his site. Reached by phone Monday, an emotional Jaquith declined comment.