"It's impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering," the president says at a campus convocation

By Stephen M. Silverman
April 17, 2007 03:15 PM

President Bush spoke Tuesday afternoon on the campus of Virginia Tech, where the day before 33 people were killed in the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Laura and I have come to Blacksburg today with hearts full of sorrow,” Bush told the capacity crowd. “It is a day of sadness for our entire nation. We come to express our sympathy. In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you, and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected.”

In the audience mourners, many of them dressed in Virginia Tech t-shirts and sweatshirts, wept and put their arms around each other as Bush spoke.

“It’s impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering,” Bush continued. “Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they are gone, and they leave behind grieving families and grieving classmates and a grieving nation.”

The president advised the survivors to find sources of strength around them, including in the Virginia Tech community. He quoted a blog posting from a recent graduate of the school that said, “I don’t know most of you guys, but we’re all Hokies, which means we’re family.”

The convocation, called a service of mourning, followed the president’s order Tuesday in which he decreed that the nation’s flag be lowered at half-staff until at least Sunday in honor of those who died Monday.

“Our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech,” Bush said in his proclamation. “We lift them up in our prayers and we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering.”

Virginia Tech president Charles Steger also spoke at Tuesday’s service. “The expressions of sympathy and support that have poured in from around the country and from, literally, every corner of the world, comfort us,” he said, vowing that the school “will move forward.”

At the end of the service, the audience observed a moment of silence.

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