Re­mem­ber­ing Reema

The Washington Post Sunday - - Outlook - By Hali Plourde-Rogers

Af­ter last week’s events here at Vir­ginia Tech, all I can think of is Reema Samaha. I think of her con­stant smile, her love of dance and the first day she came to take part in Hill and Veil, the cam­pus’s Mid­dle East­ern dance group. She came to our be­gin­ner belly-dance hour on a Wed­nes­day night early last fall, and af­ter­ward, she po­litely asked if she could stay and try to fol­low along with the ad­vanced group. Within min­utes, we knew that she was a nat­u­ral dancer, one of the best we had ever seen. Part of me is an­gry that she is dead, but most of me just does not un­der­stand. Blacks­burg has al­ways felt safe to me. I felt safe as I walked to class from the bus stop on Mon­day morn­ing. I felt safe seated in my 9:05 class Mon­day morn­ing — un­til we saw po­lice with large guns run past our room in Pam­plin Hall. My class­mate, Amanda, turned on her lap­top and found an e-mail no­ti­fi­ca­tion of a “shoot­ing in­ci­dent” ear­lier that morn­ing. We passed cell­phones around at­tempt­ing to reach par­ents, sig­nif­i­cant oth­ers and friends. The pro­fes­sor, Clare Dan­nen­berg, turned on the TV in hopes of get­ting more in­for­ma­tion than the spotty e-mails were giv­ing us. The news re­ported a gun­man in Nor­ris Hall — just two build­ings away.

We were placed in lock­down and weren’t let out un­til a lit­tle af­ter noon. There was slight grid­lock to get off cam­pus; we could go only one way since am­bu­lances were lined all down Perry Street. We spent the af­ter­noon try­ing to get ahold of as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble, try­ing to find out who was in Nor­ris.

I had re­ceived e-mails from all of the ad­vanced dance girls, ex­cept for Reema. We tried her cell­phone; the mail­box was full. We checked her screen name; she was not on­line. We looked at Face­book. Her wall was cov­ered in mes­sages say­ing, “We can’t find you” and “Where are you?” I re­ceived a phone call around 11 p.m. It was Liz Varnerin, the dance group’s vice pres­i­dent, in tears. Through her sobs, she told me that Reema had not made it. The first thing I was able to say was, “Oh God, are you sure?” I hoped so badly that I was go­ing to wake up from all of this. But some­thing inside me knew. And I cried, like thou­sands of other stu­dents, par­ents and pro­fes­sors across the cam­pus. All I can hope is that God or Al­lah or what­ever be­ing it is up there made it as pain­less as pos­si­ble for her.

And I cry now be­cause this is not just my story. This is the story of ev­ery Vir­ginia Tech stu­dent. A few de­tails may change, but we all lost 32 friends that day. We have bonded to­gether in the face of tragedy, we have gripped each other’s hands, and we have wept while hold­ing our heads high. We have been bro­ken, but we re­main stand­ing. We will mourn for a long time, and we will never for­get. But I, at least, will re­turn. I will re­turn to Vir­ginia Tech for Reema — and we will dance for her to­gether.

COUR­TESY OF HALI PLOURDE-ROGERS

A nat­u­ral: Reema Samaha, bot­tom right, and the au­thor, sec­ond from right in the back row.

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