Students take part in a candlelight vigil a day after the killings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., April 17, 2007.
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Victims of Virginia Tech massacre honored at 8th anniversary

In the eight years since the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, the worst school shooting in U.S. history, more than 100 similar tragedies have occurred on American soil, the FBI says these kinds of incidents are on the rise, and active-shooter and lockdown drills have become part of students’ academic routines.

Thursday marked the eighth anniversary of the massacre at the university, where a gunman claimed the lives of 32 people before killing himself on April 16, 2007. Residents honored the victims at 9:43 a.m. during a statewide moment of silence. Then, buglers from the school’s Corps of Cadets played echo taps at various locations across the campus, which is located in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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Remembrance events began at midnight Thursday with the lighting of a ceremonial candle at the university’s April 16 Memorial, where 32 Hokie stones, each engraved with a victim’s name, are lined in a semi-circle, according to the university’s website. The candle will remain lit for 24 hours. Before it is extinguished, the Corps of Cadets will stand guard for 32 minutes.

Virginians will continue to hold memorial events through the weekend, including a 3.2-mile race on Saturday morning. Groups on campus have urged members of the community to participate in service projects throughout the week leading up to the anniversary.

On other days throughout the year, though, some people have turned the tragedy into positive action. Kristina Anderson, a survivor who suffered three wounds during the massacre, launched cell phone application that allows college students, faculty, and staff to connect with emergency services without dialing 911 or speaking to an operator. A user’s message sends an instantaneous audio notification to safety officials, who then are able to begin communicating with the individual.

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Five years after the massacre in Virginia, a gunman fatally shot 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The tragedy renewed a nationwide debate about gun control, including an unsuccessful push by President Barack Obama to enact more regulations on firearms.

Where Congress has failed to address gun legislation, however, state and local leaders have taken matters into their own hands. Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., for example, have extended a requirement for background checks beyond federal law to include at least some private sales. A loophole in the federal system currently allows people to buy firearms sold online and at gun shows without first passing a background check.