Healing After Virginia Tech

Meredith Vieira tells the inspiring story of how she served as both reporter and comforting mom after the tragedy.

By Meredith Vieira, Westchester, New York

As appeared in

Then that night, going through my e-mail, I found one message from Lily. Maybe something I'm supposed to do for school, I thought. I opened it up and read, "Mom, I love you on The View and I will love you on the Today show. Love, Lily." Tears flooded my eyes. Her encouragement was incredibly touching. It meant everything to me.

Ben is the oldest of the three, and I felt I could be pretty frank with him about all my insecurities. Would I be good enough for the job? Would I be able to keep it up week after week?

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"Mom," he said, "remember when I had to change schools going into fifth grade and I was scared about leaving my old friends behind and making new friends? Remember what you said to me then? You promised me that after the first few days I'd really love it, and I did. So will you."

That should have been enough. But I still had my doubts. The job would be huge and all-consuming. The night before my first day I had a terrible case of cold feet. Before dinner I went out for a walk—ever since my days in a Quaker school, solitude has been my way to find peace. I walked and walked, but I didn't feel any better. Finally I came home and sat at my place at the kitchen table. There in front of me was a jewelry box. "Open it," said Richard and the kids. Inside was the bracelet with the gold charm: "We are with you. Love, Richard, Ben, Gabe, Lily." My doubts vanished. It was as though everyone were hugging me and supporting me at once.

Now, looking at that charm bracelet and the pain and confusion at Virginia Tech, I knew my family's love would support me. All day long I thought of them, ached for them.

The last segment we filmed that day was at the sprawling drill field where some students had erected a spontaneous memorial of flowers and signs. It was dusk. Students took turns writing their messages on poster boards, things like, "We love you…We miss you… We won't forget you… We will survive."

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I wondered. How will they survive?

But how?

When the interviews were all finished I had the urge to step out of my role as a Today show host. If I couldn't be with my own kids, I just wanted to be a mom hanging out with these kids. I stood there, part of the crowd. One girl looked up at me with an empty poster board and a marker in her hand. "What should I say?" she asked.

"Anything that comes to you," I told her. "Anything your heart tells you will be right."

Then a girl came up to me and handed me a candle. I tried to give it back to her. "You'll probably need this for some of the others," I said.

"Take it," she insisted.

I did. My candle was lit by another candle until all of us standing there—there must have been hundreds of us—were illuminated as if by one single light. A silence—a wonderful, peaceable, healing silence—came over the crowd. We could all feel a presence.

That's when one girl came over to me and asked, "Can you give me a hug?" I wrapped my arms around her and she broke down. For the first time since coming to Blacksburg, Virginia, I was able to cry too, feeling her pain and the pain of all the other students around me, but so grateful that I could somehow offer them comfort.

After the first girl walked away, another student came up to me for a hug and then another. I couldn't be at home, hugging my own children, but I could certainly hug these kids. And it felt so right. I looked down at the charm bracelet on my wrist. I read the names again in the flickering candlelight.

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Yes, it had been a long day, both as a reporter and a mom. But in the end I had found comfort in the simple act of connecting with these students. It is in these small moments that healing begins.