Frank Charney

Frank Charney's Sunday Postcard

Virginia Tech experiences

With the tragic events of the past week, Virginia Tech will always be known as the college where 32 students and staff members were massacred by a crazed gunman. If people had never heard of Blacksburg, the town integrated with the college, they certainly are acquainted with it now from the unending programs of the news media, which descended on the school and town. With future news, we will now be bombarded with controversy about how the school and law enforcement could have possibly acted more judiciously to prevent these tragic events from happening.

As events unfolded at VT, my wife and I held our breath bated regarding an associate professor who teaches in the engineering department at Virginia Tech. I sent an email to Mary, the VT instructor, a former neighbor of ours in Northern Virginia. Mary replied that she fortunately fared well during this excruciating drama, and everyone's emotions were drained.

My wife Rose and I made many trips to Virginia Tech. It was over twenty years ago when our son Mark was admitted to VT. He pursued a degree in Architectural and Urban Studies, a five-year program. It required only a short time for Mark to became acquainted and enjoy the place.The architectural curriculum at the school was an intense program, requiring a lot of dedication because considerable time had to be spent on architectural projects. It often involved "week-enders" where the student spent Saturday and Sunday overnight in the laboratory to complete his assigned project. The project had to be submitted to the instructor early on Monday morning and be graded.

When Mark finally graduated in 1987, we had to pry him away from Virginia Tech and Blacksburg. I especially recall the last trip back home to Northern Virginia after Mark graduated. My Buick LeSabre, fortunately with a large trunk space, was filled to capacity, as was the roof carrier I rented. Articles of clothing and miscellaneous school supplies filled every available interior space of the car, including Mark's architectural building project weighing 100 pounds resting on the front passenger seat. (I just discarded the project in 2007 after it was stored in my backyard shed all these years.) Mark, my wife, and myself somehow miraculously found space in the car for the homebound journey.

It's been a long time since I last visited VT. It's location about 250 miles southwest of Washington DC always presented a quiet and soulful setting, an ideal environment for students to think. The solitude and peacefulness that the college has known will forever now have disappeared, because of the events of the past week. The college will now be the destination of many curiousity seekers and passersby who will want to view the scene where unimaginable horror and mayhem occurred. VT will never be the same. But hopefully, some sort of healing process can now begin.

— Frank Charney Jonal index previous entry

This Day in History

1721: The Seahorse arrived in Boston from the West Indies carrying smallpox. The inoculations crusade mounted by Dr. Zabdiel Boylston was bitterly opposed. The epidemic claimed 844 lives.

1832: Birth of J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day.

1889: The Oklahoma land rush began.

Arbor Day

Arbor Day is a holiday celebrated in the United States, China, and other countries, that encourages the planting and care of trees.

Arbor Day was established by J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City, Nebraska, in 1872.J. Sterling Morton and his wife moved from Detroit to the Nebraska Territory in 1854, where he was the editor of Nebraska's first newspaper. His influence as a journalist led to his involvement in politics, and he became a promoter of the settlement of Nebraska. The lack of trees, however, was an obstacle.

The Great Plains had been described as the "Great American Desert." The tallgrass prairie that covered much of Nebraska at that time could provide rich farmland, but without wood for building houses or for fuel to heat homes, few found it convenient to settle there. Even the allotment of free land by the Homestead Act failed to entice sufficient numbers of families to relocate to Nebraska.

Morton proposed Arbor Day as a tree planting holiday in 1872 at a meeting of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. On the first Arbor Day, prizes were offered to counties and to individuals for properly planting the largest number of trees. It was claimed that more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on that day.

During the course of the 1870s, several other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day. Schools began to adopt the tradition beginning in 1882. By 1894, Arbor Day was celebrated in each state of the United States.

Morton's home in Nebraska City, Arbor Lodge, is a state historical park, which includes an arboretum and extensive landscaped grounds. Adjacent to the public park, Morton's farm, now called Arbor Day Farm, is run by the National Arbor Day Foundation

The national holiday is celebrated every year on the last Friday in April; it is a civic holiday in Nebraska. Each state celebrates its own state holiday. The customary observance is to plant a tree.


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Today's chuckle

Some folks are so contrary that if they fell in a river, they'd insist on floating upstream.

—Josh Billings

Thought for today

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.

—James Branch Cabell

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