BLACKSBURG, VA (WWBT) – Thousands of students, staff and law enforcement attended a ceremony of remembrance and healing Friday night on the Virginia Tech campus. They filled the drill field to honor Officer Deriek Crouse and his family.
It was a tear-filled memorial to a man who gave his life protecting Virginia Tech. The university held the somber tribute at a place where the community routinely remembers fallen Hokies.
Taps drowned out the muffled sniffles and sobs of a community whose sorrow you can feel in their sea of candles.
"My heart breaks for Officer Crouse," sobbed Professor Susanna Rinehart.
This university is once again grief-stricken and finding comfort in mourning the loss of Officer Crouse together.
"It's just like a family member dying," explained sophomore Adam Waldron. "It's our family kind of. When you're up here and you're away from home it is our family."
While their mere presence spoke volumes, some wish they could speak directly to the fallen officer simply to say thank you.
One graduate student, who survived the 2007 massacre, spread an important message of lessons learned.
"I want to let you know that these events do not define you," she said. "These events do not define Virginia Tech. We are defined by our spirit, our strength and our pride."
In one final solemn and silent sign of respect, students lined up to bid farewell to Crouse's family.
Saturday, students will take Friday's postponed exams as they try to move on here with their lives on campus.