Victims mourned

first_img• Photo Gallery: Memorials around the country • Photo Gallery: Virginia Tech Memorial CeremonyBLACKSBURG, Va. – President Bush paused at a makeshift memorial Tuesday across the street from the scene of the Virginia Tech shootings, then left behind a few words in sympathy. The president scrawled “God Bless” and signed his name to a giant “VT” propped up on the trunk of a tree. The first lady, who laid a bouquet of roses at the memorial, wrote “With love, Laura Bush.” Bush spent a moment of silence at the memorial after speaking at a memorial service on the campus where students, professors and administrators are anguishing over the nation’s deadliest shooting spree. “It’s impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering,” Bush said a day after the rampage in which 33 people, including the suspected gunman, died. “Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate,” the president said. “They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they’re gone – and they leave behind grieving families, and grieving classmates and a grieving nation.” Before flying to the university in southwestern Virginia, Bush ordered flags flown at half-staff and issued a written proclamation in honor of those killed and wounded. Speaking to a solemn crowd at a basketball arena, packed with students and others, many wearing orange short-sleeve Virginia Tech T-shirts, the president quoted a recent graduate blogging about the killings to encourage those who grieve to reach out for help. “To all of you who are OK, I’m happy for that,” Bush said, quoting the Internet posting. “For those of you who are in pain or who have lost someone close to you, I’m sure you can call on any one of us and have help anytime you need it.” The memorial service was subdued but ended with a spontaneous school chant of “Let’s go, Hokies!” the university mascot. The president met with a wounded student and 50 relatives of the victims, hugging them and telling them to take comfort from one another. Bush urged those angered by the killings not to be overcome by evil. “People who have never met you are praying for you,” Bush said. “They’re praying for your friends who have fallen and who are injured. There’s a power in these prayers, a real power. In times like this, we can find comfort in the grace and guidance of a loving God.” On a day of raw emotion, Bush spoke to students who he said had just lived through the worst day of their lives. “On this terrible day of mourning, it’s hard to imagine a time will come when life at Virginia Tech will return to normal, but such a day will come,” Bush said. “And when it does, you will always remember the friends and teachers who were lost yesterday.” The tragedy fueled debate over gun control. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino deflected any questions about Bush’s view of needed changes to gun control policy, saying the time for that discussion is not now. “We understand that there’s going to be and there has been an ongoing national discussion, conversation and debate about gun control policy. Of course we are going to be participants in that conversation,” she said. “Today, however, is a day that is time to focus on the families, the school, the community.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img