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At Virginia Tech, a tearful tribute

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From the Associated Press

A sea of people clad in maroon and orange, some with heads tearfully bowed, others with arms interlocked, paid tribute Wednesday at Virginia Tech to the victims who died a year ago in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The accomplishments of each of the 32 people echoed across the Drillfield, a litany of what they had done and planned to do before a student gunman killed them in classrooms and a dormitory.

Austin Cloyd had an iron will. Caitlin Hammaren loved playing the violin. Emily Hilscher was a skilled horsewoman. Ryan Clark was a collector of friends. Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva dreamed of bringing people together and making the world peaceful.

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“The world was cheated -- cheated out of the accomplishments that were sure to come from these extraordinary lives,” Gov. Timothy M. Kaine told the crowd.

People held back tears as a moment of silence was observed for those killed by Seung-hui Cho, who took his own life as police closed in. But as music started playing, many wept openly.

One grieving young woman fell to the ground, and paramedics hurried to tend to her, eventually helping her off the field as she blinked back tears.

After the ceremony, bells in the nearby administration building tolled 32 times as mourners approached the semicircle of memorial stones, each engraved with the name of a victim.

The mourners gathered on the same field where a candle lighted at midnight began a day of grieving for the victims.

Some in this close-knit campus of 27,000 were just hoping to make it through what they knew would be a difficult day.

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“It’s just so emotional for everybody,” said Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily survived being shot. “The kids -- you’re just so worried about them and think, ‘Are they reliving those moments?’ ”

About 30,000 people turned out for a candlelight vigil at dusk. Students representing each of the 32 victims lighted their candles from the one that had been burning since midnight.

After a brief silence and the playing of taps, a moment of reflection was held with candles raised in the air.

As the event ended, “Let’s go!” was screamed at one end of the Drillfield. “Hokies!” was the reply from the other end in what became a growing participatory chant that seemed to signal the resiliency of the university and community.

Smaller, reflective gatherings took place during the day.

Trees were planted in front of an honors dormitory in memory of two members of the program who were slain.

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