Virginia Tech has reopened the section of the academic building where a student gunman killed 30 people nearly two years ago in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The university held a ceremony Friday to mark the reopening of the west wing of the second floor of Norris Hall. The 4,300-square-foot area has been converted into six new rooms and laboratories and also will house the new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention.
The Center will be led by Jerzy Nowak, former head of the Department of Horticulture. His wife, French instructor Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, died in the massacre. Nowak, who is to move into the building April 23, said working at the site could be difficult.
“My feelings are secondary,” Nowak told The Roanoke Times. “You will always have moments of weakness. I mean, it is not like you can block it forever.”
The center, whose staff consists of Nowak, two graduate assistants and a secretary, is organizing a violence prevention symposium for October 2010 with an affiliated student group. It also is developing a minor in peace studies.
Gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 30 students and instructors in the building, then himself, on April 16, 2007. Earlier that day he killed 2 students in a dormitory.
The roughly $1 million renovation began in the fall and was completed last month. Norris Hall also will house space for the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, though classes will no longer be taught there.
Ishwar Puri, the engineering department head, said dedicating the site to students and to learning honors those who died.
“I think that the fundamental guiding principle behind reoccupying the space has really been to carry on a legacy,” Puri said.