Support not far behind for Va. Tech's Weaver

AUGUSTA, Ga. — In his first, faltering steps, the familiar colors surrounded him.

All around Drew Weaver, there was burnt orange and maroon. All around him, there were fans dressed in the hues of Virginia Tech, ready to support him, to encourage him, to embrace him.

Weaver would strike a ball, and fans would lean as if to will it back into the fairway. He would stride toward the green, and they would trail behind, their colors looking like pageantry flags. He would attempt to read a putt, and they would squint over his shoulder as if to edit it.

After all, he is theirs, and they are his.

Together, they are trying to move forward.

Somewhere back there, of course, the bad memories are following, too. They are always around, the sound of gunshots in the distance, the feel of panic spreading across a campus, the horror and the insanity and the confusion and the violence.

It is less than a week before the year anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy, when a monster named Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 people. It is a time that is too painful to remember, but as Weaver will tell you, his classmates are too important to forget.

The morning of April 16, Weaver sat in an accounting class 100 yards from Norris Hall. His class let out early, and when he reached the grass courtyard that separates the two buildings, he noticed policemen and sirens. Bomb threat, he thought.

Then the gunfire began, five or six shots in a few seconds, and there was chaos. A policeman told him to run. And he ran.

"Everyone pretty much freaked out and ran as far as we could to get away from the scene," Weaver said in a news conference this week. "We couldn't really tell where the shots were coming from. We had a general idea, but we didn't know if they were coming towards us."

He is impossibly young, Weaver. He is 20 but could pass for 17. His face looks too pure to hide the scars, and his shoulders seem too slight to carry the burden.

And, yet, someone must.

The rest of us forget. We move from one tragedy to another, from one story to the next, and we do not remember that survivors grieve on. Weaver remembers. He wears a mint green shirt with a Virginia Tech logo, and a soft brown hat with a Virginia Tech logo. Perhaps it is not enough, but when the other choice is forgetting, it is something.

A woman in a green shirt walks stiffly beside the ropes. Cathy Weaver had both knees replaced a few months ago, but do you think she would miss her son at the Masters?

She stands outside the third fairway, and the others embrace her, one at a time. She cannot stop smiling.

"I keep waiting for someone to say, 'Help that woman, she's delusional.' It's a really good day.

"We are so blessed that he is alive. If any of us take it for granted any day, we should stop and think."

On the day of the tragedy, she was at home when her son called. She wondered about that because he was supposed to be in class. "Don't worry, Mom," he said. "There has been a shooting, but I'm okay."

Drew and other students hid in the library for three hours. "Don't go near the windows," she said.

The Weavers were among the lucky ones. Most parents had to wait hours to find out if their children were safe. Or not.

Two weeks later, she visited her son on campus. She found it chilling how close his class was to the shootings. "You can say 100 yards and it sounds like a long way," she said, "but it was right there."

Even to Cathy, it is odd how much violence her son has been around. He was 10 when an artery in her heart burst, nearly killing her. Ten days later, Drew was in a McDonald's when one man cut another's throat. Two years later, her father was shot during a robbery of his pharmacy. Three years after that, Drew was robbed at gunpoint while playing golf.

At 19, a madman ripped open the quiet town of Blacksburg.

"As a parent, you play what if, what if, what if," said John Weaver, Drew's father. "What if he had waited to shoot until the students were outside? What if he had waited a day? Drew had a class in Norris Hall the next day."

For months, John said, Drew was unable to sleep. He would close his eyes and hear gunfire. He would awake in the night. He would think about the deaths of friends even on the course.

"It's still with him," John said. "But I think he has it properly compartmentalized."

"He has to move on," Cathy said, "but he doesn't want to move away."

For Drew, the British Amateur champion, Thursday could have been better. He was 4 over in his first round at the Masters. Decent, he said, but not good.

For the Weavers, for the college they represent, it was a good day. There was sun and smiles and friends and family. Life went on. So, too, did the memories of those who died.

Earlier this week, Letitie Clark, mother of slain student Ryan Clark, told the Augusta Chronicle how touched she was the dead were being remembered.

"We read that with tears in our eyes," Cathy said. "You hoped it would mean something to somebody and ease their pain. It was such a moving and powerful thing."

Today, the Weavers watch golf again. When it is over, they will hug their child.

Just a thought, but perhaps you should hug yours, too.

Support not far behind for Va. Tech's Weaver 04/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2008 7:47am]

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