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‘Stand strong — there will be a brighter day’

Bells tolled and a moment of silence was observed at memorial services Friday to honor the 32 victims of the deadliest rampage by a lone gunman in modern U.S. history. Later, the Virginia Tech baseball team took the field, as the community took tentative steps toward normalcy.
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Members of the Virginia Tech baseball team bow their heads Friday during a moment of silence before the start of their game against Miami, the first sporting event for the university's teams since Monday's massacre.Tim Sloan / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: NBC, and news services

Bells tolled and a moment of silence was observed at memorial services Friday to honor the 32 victims of the deadliest rampage by a lone gunman in modern U.S. history.

“We all suffer. We all grieve. There is no escape from that for any of us,” Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine told students, faculty, staff of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in an emotional address in Richmond, the state capital.

But he implored Virginia Tech to “stand strong,” promising, “There will be a brighter day.”

Also on Friday, the family of Seung-Hui Cho, 23, the man responsible for the bloodbath, spoke out for the first time, issuing a statement saying they felt “hopeless, helpless and lost” and “never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence.”

At Friday’s memorial service in Richmond, 32 Virginia Tech students read out a single name, one for each of Cho's victims. After each name was intoned, a small bell was rung.

Church bells also rang out in Blacksburg on the Virginia Tech campus. Most of the hundreds of people making their way across the campus stopped where they were and bowed their heads in respect.

“It’s good to feel the love of people around you,” said Alice Lo, an alumna and friend of Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a French instructor killed in the rampage. “With this evil, there is still goodness.”

Kaine declared Friday a day of mourning. The U.S. Senate joined the moment of silence, and similar observances were held around the country, from California to Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital.

Hokies return to the diamond
On a day marked by tears and mourning, prayer vigils and tolling bells, an evening at the ballpark — Virginia Tech’s first sporting event since Monday’s rampage — provided a hint of relief. A sea of maroon and orange, the school’s colors, filled the stands, to support not only the players but also the entire community.

Despite a late rally, the Hokies lost to the University of Miami 11-9, but the result seemed inconsequential.

“We won before we got to the field today. The scoreboard was insignificant,” Hokies coach Pete Hughes said.

“It was a bittersweet feeling playing this game,” outfielder Jose Cueto said. “It feels good to get out and get away from everything but the fact that we’re getting away from that tragedy makes it hurt.”

Joe Saunders, the only Hokies' alumnus currently in the majors, wore his old college cap, wrote “VT” on his cleats and scribbled “Virginia Tech” in the dirt on the mound.

Saunders finished up his tribute by pitching six scoreless innings Friday night in the Los Angeles Angels’ 8-4 victory over Seattle on Friday night.

“I was really nervous coming in — just the sheer fact of knowing what the game meant to me, to all the Hokie Nation out there in Virginia, to my family, and to this team because we needed to win.

“There was a lot riding on it.”

Relatives urge focus on the victims
As experts pored over Cho’s twisted writings and his videotaped rant, parents and officials urged people to instead focus on the victims of Cho’s shooting spree.

“We want the world to know and celebrate our children’s lives, and we believe that’s the central element that brings hope in the midst of great tragedy,” said Peter Read of Annandale, Va., whose 19-year-old daughter, Mary Karen, was killed. “These kids were the best that their generation has to offer.”

Elsewhere, private funeral ceremonies were held for Egyptian Waleed Mohammed Shaalan and Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan of Indonesia. Engineering professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who died trying to save his students, was buried in Israel.

In Pennsylvania, members of Jeremy Herbstritt’s family sat quietly in the front of a worship hall in State College as students and staff lighted candles and signed a condolence banner to mourn the Pennsylvania State University alumnus, who was pursuing graduate studies in civil engineering at Virginia Tech.

“We will remember,” read a large placard next to the banner near the front of the hall. Several students and staffers wore Virginia Tech sweat shirts. Virginia Tech alumni declared Friday a national day to wear the Hokies’ colors.

Others journeyed to Blacksburg even though they had no connection to the university. One of them was the Rev. Michael Shoels, whose son, Isaiah, died eight years ago Friday in the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

“I’m here for that purpose and that purpose only, because these families need support,” Shoels told NBC News.

‘Ready in my head to move on’
Friends and family members also urged the nation not to forgot those wounded in the attacks, saying they would need help, love and support. Twenty-six people were reported wounded Monday, nine of whom remained in area hospitals Friday.

For the friends of Colin Goddard, humor was the best approach. A gaggle of friends were cracking jokes around his hospital bed, where he was recovering from three gunshot wounds.

“He needs to come back and make burnt toast for all of us,” one said.

Goddard, 21, an international studies student from Richmond, , “I’m more than ready in my head to move on and keep going forward.”

“I’m ready to laugh,” he said. “I’m more than mentally prepared to move on with this. It’s just my physical limitations at this point are what’s bringing me down.”

Goddard’s mother, Lynne, told TODAY’s Ann Curry that “we’re not going to live in fear now.”

“There’s risk in life. You’ve got to be able to accept that risk and just keep going on and not live in fear constantly. We’re going to keep moving forward.”

Controversy over release of materials
Many parents were at the Blacksburg campus. Among them was Read, who urged television stations to stop broadcasting Cho’s gruesome, hate-filled videos and photographs.

Police said they were disappointed that NBC News, which received the materials in the mail Wednesday, chose to broadcast them. NBC and other major networks pledged to scale back their use of the material.

The videos revealed a man angry at the world but offered little explanation of why, other than rambling tirades against rich kids, “snobs” and people who had wronged him.

As experts analyzed the disturbing materials, it became increasingly clear that Cho was almost a classic case of a school shooter: a painfully awkward, picked-on young man who lashed out with methodical fury at a world he believed was out to get him.

“In virtually every regard, Cho is prototypical of mass killers that I’ve studied in the past 25 years,” said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston and co-author of 16 books on crime. “That doesn’t mean, however, that one could have predicted his rampage.”

When criminologists and psychologists look at mass murders, Cho fits the themes they see repeatedly: a friendless figure, someone who has been bullied, someone who blames others and is bent on revenge, a careful planner, a male. And someone who sent up warning signs with his strange behavior long in advance.

Among other things, the South Korean immigrant was sent to a psychiatric hospital and pronounced an imminent danger to himself. He was accused of stalking two women and photographing female students in class with his cell phone.

And his violence-filled writings were so disturbing that he was removed from one class and professors begged him to get counseling. Cho rarely looked anyone in the eye and did not even talk to his own roommates.

Videotaped rants
He described himself in his video diatribe as a persecuted figure like Jesus Christ. Cho, who came to the United States at age 8 in 1992 and whose parents worked at a dry cleaners in suburban Washington, also ranted against rich “brats” with Mercedes Benzes, gold necklaces, Cognac and trust funds.

U.S. officials told NBC News that Cho’s parents, who were described as very upset, were still in the country. Their location was not disclosed; the officials said they were being moved around under police protection because of potential threats.

Classmates in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, where Cho grew up, said he was teased and picked on, apparently because of shyness and his strange, mumbly way of speaking.

A 2002 federal study on common characteristics of school shooters found that 71 percent of them “felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack.”

Cho “would almost be a poster child for the pattern that we saw,” said Marisa Randazzo, a former chief research psychologist at the U.S. Secret Service and co-author of the study, which was conducted jointly with the Education Department.

A great-aunt of Cho’s who lives in South Korea said Thursday that he did not speak much as a child and after the family emigrated to the United States.

“Normally sons and mothers talk. There was none of that for them. He was very cold,” the woman, Kim Yang-soon, said in an interview with AP Television News. “When they went to the United States, they told them it was autism.”

Neither school officials, who have his educational records, nor police, who have his medical records, have mentioned such a diagnosis. Autistic individuals often have difficulty communicating, but such a diagnosis would not necessarily explain his violence.

Progress in investigation
Investigators are “making some really great progress” into determining how and why the shootings happened, Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said Friday. She said they hoped to have something to tell the public next week.

Law enforcement sources told NBC News that investigators were checking video from several security cameras “in the vicinity of the post office” in Blacksburg where Cho dropped off his Express Mail package to NBC News on Monday morning.

One tape appears to show Cho about 9:03 a.m., presumably leaving the post office, officials said, although they said they had yet to conclude that it was definitely him.

Police filed a search warrant for a laptop and cell phone used by one of the first victims, Emily Hilscher, who was shot in a dormitory.

“The computer would be one way the suspect could have communicated with the victim,” the warrant said, but it offered no basis for a belief that Cho might have been in contact with her.

Kaine also appointed an independent panel that includes former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to look into how authorities handled the shootings.

Ridge said Friday that the group would look into how students were notified of the dangers, especially the two-hour time lapse between the first shootings and officials issuance of the first e-mail warnings, and whether privacy laws and the need to communicate for safety conflicted.

“This was out-and-out murder,” Ridge said. “This was a horribly, horribly deranged young man.”