As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks this weekend, there will be several memorials honoring those who lost their lives and discussion will be how those events changed the lives of those impacted by the attacks and subsequent carnage that ensued when the buildings came crashing down.
What made the Sept. 11 attacks so tragic wasn't merely the loss of life, but the unexpectedness of the attacks and the fear that followed was that similar massacres could happen again. Fortunately, there hasn't been a repeat. Yet, Vikings linebacker Xavier Adibi lived through his own "Sept. 11" more than five years later.
On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a student at Virginia Tech, began a two-pronged shooting rampage on the campus in Blacksburg, Va. By the time the carnage ended, Cho had killed 32 people and wounded 25 more before committing suicide.
Much like Sept. 11, it started as any normal day in Blacksburg. Adibi's alarm clock went off and he was getting ready for a typical school day. He was excited about the coming of spring practice the next week and was looking forward to the start of his final year playing football with the Hokies. It was like any other morning.
"We were just getting ready to start spring ball," Adibi said. "We were excited about getting the new season going and everything was going along as it always did – classes, getting ready for my senior season, those kinds of things. That all changed in a hurry."
As luck would have it, Adibi and some of his teammates had moved off campus into an apartment away from the hustle and bustle of the dorms – a decision that may have saved his life. He wasn't in the line of fire and, when the initial reports came out of Cho's first attack, he didn't believe it.
"I was living off-campus at the time, which was fortunate," Adibi said. "I was just waking up and my phone kept ringing. It was my family wondering if I was OK. They told me that somebody had been shot on campus and I didn't believe it. So I got dressed and was getting ready to head to my first class."
Adibi was planning to walk across campus to get to class when the second round of shooting began. This time, the information was becoming more concrete that in fact a shooting rampage was going on at that moment and Adibi looked on in horror as the number of casualties continued to mount.
"My brother called me and told me to check out the TV to see what was going on before I headed to my class," Adibi said. "When I turned on the TV, I saw the death count and number just kept rising and rising and rising. It was unreal."
When the shooting finally stopped, the campus was in collective shock. Classes were canceled for several days and the traumatic effect of the killings changed life forever in the small college town. Adibi said the small-town atmosphere in Blacksburg was one of the things that drew him to Virginia Tech, which made the carnage all the more difficult to explain or accept.
"It was surreal," Abidi said. "If you have ever been to Blacksburg, it was the last place you would expect to have something like that happen. It's such a small town – a close-knit college town. It's hard to believe to this day that it happened."
Adibi said that, like his fellow students, he had no choice but to move on. A delayed spring practice started two weeks later and he went on to complete his senior season in the fall of 2007, which culminated in him being drafted by the Houston Texans. More than four years have gone by since that dark day in Blacksburg, but, while the memories may fade somewhat over time, much like those who lived or worked near Ground Zero on Sept. 11, the memories will never completely go away.
"I still think about that day quite a bit," Adibi said. "You can't let your life stop because of something like that, but it was a tragedy that changed everything on campus. A lot of people died. A lot more were hurt and that pain will always be there. Whenever I hear about a shooting, it comes back to mind immediately. All you can do is hope that something like that never happens again to somebody else."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Adibi remembers his own local tragedy
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