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Lehigh community mourns Virginia Tech tragedy

The Lehigh community reacted with shock and profound grief to the tragic shootings Monday at Virginia Tech University.

“Together, we share in the grief of the Virginia Tech community and extend to them our deepest sympathy and condolences,” Lehigh President Alice P. Gast said Tuesday. “They have experienced a loss of such magnitude that there are no words to express the deep sadness we feel.” To read President Gast’s message, click here.

The university is helping students, faculty, staff and all members of the Lehigh community deal with the emotional turmoil of this tragic incident. An hour of meditation and prayer in remembrance and support of the Virginia Tech University community was held in Packer Memorial Church at noon Tuesday. The Rev. Dr. Lloyd Steffen, university chaplain, and Father Wayne Killian offered opening words and prayers, and the lectern was opened for anyone who wanted to speak.

For the complete text of Steffen’s remarks, read “Our hearts here at Lehigh are grieved”.

"In light of Monday's events, it is important for us as a campus to offer our deepest condolences to those affected by the tragedy at Virginia Tech," said Cara Diorio '07, president of the student senate. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the university's campus, surrounding community and especially the families that have lost their loved ones."

Graduate student Hannah Dailey said: “I believe I speak on behalf of the Graduate Student Senate when I say that our hearts go out to everyone in the Virginia Tech family. This tragedy is heartbreaking for them and deeply sobering for those of us who can do nothing more than offer our thoughts and prayers in remembrance of their loss.

“I truly wish there was something more we could say or do to offer comfort for their immense grief.”

Scott W. Wojciechowski ’09, sophomore class president, said: "As many of my classmates have friends at Virginia Tech and VT was a school that a lot of Lehigh students also considered when looking at colleges, this terrible, senseless tragedy hits close to home for the Lehigh Family. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, their families, and the entire Virginia Tech community as the long mourning process begins."

The university’s Dean of Students Office and University Counseling and Psychological Center offered assistance to any students struggling with the impact of this incident.

“The emotions evoked by this incident touch us all,” said John Smeaton, vice provost for student affairs. “It is normal to experience a range of feelings in the wake of such a tragedy.”

The university actively reviews existing emergency plans to ensure that Lehigh is prepared to effectively respond to situations and maintain the personal safety of the campus community, Smeaton said.

“Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our students,” Gast said. “While we are confident that our existing campus safety and community awareness programs make our campus as safe as possible, we are taking the prudent step to once again review our emergency plans in light of the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech.”

“Sadly, no community can be totally free of risk in today’s society; however, together as a community, we can work in partnership to ensure the safety our students, faculty and staff members,” she said.

To read more about Lehigh’s campus safety program, click here.

Lehigh University Police Chief Edward Shupp said Lehigh has taken many steps in recent years to make the university’s campus as safe as possible. The university has increased by more than 40 percent the number of police officers and security guards on campus, and has established two police substations to help raise police visibility in the outlying areas of campus. Also, a state-of-the-art card access system has been installed in residence halls and sorority houses.

For more information on campus safety, see the PDF of Lehigh’s Annual Security Report.

Posted on Monday, April 16, 2007

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