Library exhibit honors the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) Twelve years ago, Virginia Tech experienced one of the worst tragedies that could happen to a school. For some people who were there when the tragedy happened, this time of year is still difficult to get through.

"It was very difficult and I think initially we were all in shock," Tamara Kennelly said, reflecting on that day.

She is Virginia Tech's archivist. After the tragedy, she was in charge of collecting the items that were left on the Drillfield memorial or sent to the university.

"It was unbelievable some of the items that were left," she said, explaining that there were at least 90,000 items collected.

Every year since the first anniversary, Kennelly is tasked with going through the items and choosing which ones to display.

This year theme is "Holding the Light," a tribute to the first night after the shooting.

"People were literally on the Drillfield, holding the light thinking about the magnificent people we had lost," her voice cracked.

She handpicked several art pieces to display this year.

"This one is called Joy Soars.," she said gesturing to a giant painting on the wall. On the yellow canvas, 32 doves represent the 32 students and faculty members who died.

"People are strong and they go on with their lives, but it's not easy," she said.

Other items on display in the Newman Library include signs of handwritten notes from citizens in South Korea, art that portrays the first candlelight vigil, and hats and stuffed animals left on the Drillfield.

"It's still emotional because the reason for having the display is remembering the people that we lost," she said.

Each item is lit by the glow of a candle. Each candle is symbolic of the light each life still shines on the campus.

"We need to remember. And this was a way of remembering."

The items will be on display for the Virginia Tech community and public to see until April 18.

The artifacts are also available to view online on the Condolence Archives and Communities of Caring websites.