President Daniel Weiss addressed the following message to alumni and parents this evening via the Marquis Mailer and to the campus community via email:
With great sadness I informed the campus community this afternoon that a member of the Lafayette family, Daniel Patrick O’Neil, Class of 2006, lost his life in yesterday’s shootings at Virginia Tech. It is difficult to find words to express the deep sense of loss in our community. The sympathy of all members of our College family is with this young man’s family in this tragic hour.
Confirmation of the news of Dan’s death came during an emotional day in which the campus community came together to share information, thoughts, and feelings in the wake of the tragedy. I would like to share with you, alumni and parents, a sense of the day’s events.
This morning I addressed a message to the campus community noting that a variety of support services are available to students, faculty, and staff. The Counseling Center, Bailey Health Center, Office of Religious Life and others stand ready to assist those who wish to avail themselves of services.
I also assured the Lafayette community that we take campus safety very seriously and have routine training and procedures in place to ensure that ours is a safe and healthy campus environment. An open forum this afternoon in Colton Chapel provided further opportunity to give reassurance on this. The forum included a presentation and discussion about our comprehensive incident response plan, which is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis. The plan includes protocols for insuring the safety of the campus community in the event of emergencies of all scales.
Our safety procedures and policies represent the best practices in higher education. But we recognize that the events at Virginia Tech are “off the book” – essentially unprecedented, unanticipated, and, therefore, unprepared for. The events give us cause to continue reviewing our practices and to modify them in light of what happened yesterday. And we will do so.
Karen Forbes, the College’s director of counseling services, also provided perspective and insight into the grieving process that will prove helpful as our community continues coming to grips in the aftermath of the tragedy. The forum was the second gathering in Colton Chapel on this day. At noontime, more than 100 members of the campus community came together to express their thoughts and feelings on the tragedy or simply reflect in silence.
As the story of this tragedy unfolds, all the ways in which the event touches the members of the Lafayette family will become better known. Some things simply cannot be made sense of, and in the face of such things we must just acknowledge how fragile human life is and how important our community is to us. We will get through this together. And our sense of loss and sadness extends beyond our own College family to all the people of Virginia Tech and Blacksburg. Our thoughts will be with the people of those communities in the coming days and weeks.
We will continue communicating information via the College’s website, including details on a campus memorial service now being planned to remember the life of Dan O’Neil.
Daniel H. Weiss