A father's grief

Reema Samaha, from Centreville, Va., was an aspiring dancer. She was killed in her French class.

Her sister Rhonda added that "she was pretty much my second half, we did everything together. I looked up to her, and she looked up to me."

Reema spent last summer in Beirut.  She saw the war and came back to Blacksburg. Safe, she thought.

I sat down today with Reema's father, Joe Samaha, as he shared his memories of the gifted child he loved— and the moment he learned she was lost.

Stone Phillips, Dateline:  How did you receive the news about had happened to Reema ?

Joe Samaha: I received the news basically by deducing that something was badly wrong here when we did not hear from Reema. I called her cell phone immediately and did not get an answer and tried several times and tried her room and her friends and no response.

Phillips: Was it unusual for her not to answer her cellphone?

Joe Samaha:  Absolutely she responds pretty quickly. And then it just started to reveal itself to me that something was wrong.  So I gathered my family and we drove down.

Phillips: So how did you finally learn?

Joe Samaha:  It happened to be a fellow who we know, and he happened to know Reema, and he happened to be with the ambulance at the time and he broke the news to us.

Phillips: He’d known Reema.

Joe Samaha: He’d known Reema.

Phillips: And that’s how you heard?

Joe Samaha: That’s how we heard.

Phillips:  Did you ever receive a phone call from the university?

Joe Samaha:   No we did not.

Phillips:  Cellphones or did they try calling your home?

Joe Samaha: No. Just that the police did confirm after we were told by this young fellow that it was true that Reema was on the list at the morgue.

Phillips: The viewers no doubt will hear you speak and their hearts will go out to you, but lest there be any doubt about how devastating this has been  -- this is painful beyond belief.

Joe Samaha: It’s painful. We all grieve in different ways.

Phillips:  You are remarkably composed for someone who has just lost a child.

Joe Samaha:  I gain her energy. She was a positive person.  She was a beautiful person and that’s what I’ll remember her as. We’ve lost a very talented beautiful young lady who was growing here at the university.  Her heart was in dance and theater and she belonged to a contemporary dance ensemble here and she loved that very much.

Phillips:  Do you remember the last time you spoke to Reema?

Joe Samaha:  We were lucky. We came down this past weekend to see part of her dance performance. I went back Sunday night and I sent her an email how proud we were of her and how well she was doing.

Phillips: A lot of questions are being asked about whether enough was done early enough that might have prevented the rampage. What questions remain in your mind?

Joe Samaha: I haven’t asked them yet. I understand there were circumstances. I understand things started earlier than the time my daughter was killed.

Phillips: 2 hours.

Joe Samaha: I don’t know what transpired in those 2 hours.

Phillips: What questions remain in your mind?

Joe Samaha: Why didn’t she skip class? Why was she there at that time? Why was the shooter doing? What he was doing? Why was he on a rampage?

Phillips:  Is there anything more you want to say.

Joe Samaha: I just want to see our daughter. We’re having a tough time doing that. The medical examiner’s office doesn’t have the facilities to reunite the families with their deceased. They said they could provide us with photographs in a few hours.

Phillips: You need to see something, you need to see her face.

Joe Samaha:  Absolutely. I need to see her face.

Phillips: And when you do see it?

Joe Samaha: I’ll kiss it.