BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Students returned to class Monday at Virginia Tech, the first year the school hasn't suspended instruction to mark the anniversary of a 2007 rampage that left 32 people and the gunman dead.
The massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Provost Mark McNamee, who chaired a committee that planned memorial events in the years after the shooting, said the return to classes reflects the lives of those slain.
"Their passion for education, their desire to do good in the world, their commitment to their disciplines come through so strongly that we felt being in classes was one special way of remembering them onward," McNamee said. "This is what they did, this is what we do, and it's important to us.
"My sense is that our students and our faculty are ready for it," he said.
The day was remembered in other ways on the Blacksburg campus, in Washington, and by alumni across the country.
An estimated 9,000 gathered in the Drillfield at the heart of campus Monday night to attend a candlelight vigil, similar to one held in the immediate aftermath of the shootings.
The shootings are "almost too terrible to remember," President Charles Steger told the crowd as candles danced in the wind. "But we will never forget. Five years has done nothing to diminish our sorrow."
Former Student Government Association president Sumeet Bagai spoke five years ago. On Monday he said the Hokie Nation rose to the occasion then and would continue to be a source of strength for the community.
"You have carried that legacy on," Bagai told the gathering, according to The Roanoke Times. "There is no stronger bond than the ties of the Hokie family."
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation recognizing April 16 as Virginia Tech Remembrance Day, honoring the 32 lives that were "hastily taken, leaving absences that will never be filled and a profound sense of sorrow in the lives of those impacted," the proclamation reads in part.
At 9:43 a.m. Monday, McDonnell called for a moment of silence in Virginia. That was the exact time when gunman Seung-Hui Cho began killing 30 students and professors at Norris Hall during the 2007 shootings. Cho also killed two people in a dormitory before starting the rampage in the classroom building.
On campus, events included a community picnic on the Drillfield, a display of memorial items sent to Virginia Tech from other colleges and universities and performances. Several locations have been set aside on campus as "quiet places for reflection."