Like millions of people across the country, we at Legacy.com were stunned and saddened by the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. As people struggled to make sense of the shootings, we did what we could do – we provided a monitored forum through which people could support and encourage the university community as well as the friends and family of the victims.
As soon as there were confirmed deaths, we created a group Guest Book through which people could share condolences for all of the victims. And as names of individual victims were released, we created profiles and Guest Books for each.
When events like this occur, our team goes into “all hands on deck” mode. We solicit extra hours from our part-time screeners, and our supervisors and managers join them in reviewing messages for appropriate content. I don’t know that any of us quite expected the outpouring that came our way. More than 56,000 condolence messages were submitted to the group Guest Book and the Guest Books for individual victims.
Early in their coverage, one of our newspaper partners replaced a message board with a link to our group Guest Book. Here’s what Roanoke.com’s editor had to say about that decision:
“In the first hours of the shooting news, we had created a message board for users to discuss the event. We were quickly told by other users that inappropriate and vulgar comments were being added to it. We pulled the board. Our online obituary partner, Legacy.com, provided a guest book for all of the victims, which would be monitored, hosted and maintained by them. Providing that link allowed for discussion of the shooting and gave users the chance to express their condolences and grief for the victims.” (Excerpt from “Covering the Tech shootings”)
We reached out to Virginia Tech and offered our monitored Guest Book for their use. In one of those “you never know who you might run into again” moments, we discovered that the webmaster at Virginia Tech previously worked for one of our newspaper partners and was very familiar with our services. On April 20th, Virginia Tech decided to replace their condolence submission page with a link to our Guest Book. Here’s how they explained that decision:
“We are no longer accepting new entries on this website so our communications team may focus on the university’s recovery from these sad events. As an alternative, we suggest the Guest Book on Legacy.com.” (Excerpt from AJ/Norris Memorial Website)
We were honored and humbled to provide this service to both our newspaper partners and the university.
As we mark the 5th anniversary of that sad day, I encourage you to visit Legacy.com’s memorial site to pay tribute to the victims and to remind their loved ones that they have not been forgotten.