BLACKSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Ten years later, Virginia Tech is still recovering from the shootings that left 32 people dead and more than a dozen others hurt. One way the University started the healing process was by transforming the site of the shootings into a brand new education center focused on moving forward.
It was inside Norris Hall that 30 of the 32 victims lost their lives on April 16th, 2007. In the wake of the tragedy, the building underwent extensive renovations. It’s now home to the center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention.
“This is where the shootings occurred, it was primarily on this floor,” Peace Center Director James Hawdon said while giving 8News Anchor Morgan Dean a tour. “The Center is part of one of the old classrooms.”
Virginia Tech spent almost two years renovating Norris Hall, removing all signs of the shootings that happened there. This is what the space looks like today with the Peace Center in place:
Peace studies is a minor in the sociology department at Virginia Tech with about 90 students enrolled right now.
“The center was founded after the shootings in 2007 shootings as a way to transform the space from some place of this heinous act occurred to something more socially positive,” Hawdon said.
The center focuses on researching the causes and consequences of violence. The Tech shootings are discussed, along with other violent acts in some of the classes, but they aren’t the focus.
“The center is really directed at moving forward and trying to figure why things like this happen,” Hawdon explained. “Why acts of violence around the world happen, and to figure out strategies for reducing that.”
The center has also hosted families of the victims of the Tech shootings as well as some of the survivors.
“We’ve had several families, several people who were here, survivors who’ve come in, (they) talk about it almost as a cathartic experience to talk about how transformed the space has become,” Hawdon said.