Four Virginia Tech victims remembered
EVANS, Ga. – About 100 members of the Virginia Tech marching band played in a memorial service Saturday for bandmate Ryan Clark, remembered as a gregarious young man who went to lengths to make fellow students feel included.Clark, a 22-year-old from Martinez, Ga., was one of the first victims of Seung-Hui Cho, the brooding loner who gunned down 32 people on campus and killed himself Monday.Hundreds of mourners packed the gymnasium at Clark’s former high school to hear rousing songs from his former bandmates and praise for the young man with a contagious laughter who engaged everyone.”That’s how Ryan was. He was the type of person that gave his all,” band director David McKee said.Clark was in his fifth year in the Marching Virginians, which traveled to this small eastern Georgia town for the service at Lakeside High School, where Clark and his twin brother, Bryan, graduated in 2002.In Virginia, more than 1,800 people packed St. Timothy’s Catholic Church in Chantilly for a service for Reema Samaha, who was killed while sitting in French class.A large photograph of Samaha, smiling and dressed in white, sat on an easel in front of the church’s altar. White flowers, including lilies, were placed nearby.Friends and family remembered the 18-year-old from Centreville, Va., as a dancer who loved movement and grace.Lisa Samaha, a cousin from Lebanon, said, “Dance was her world, and she was our star.”For more than an hour after the service, crowds gathered outside the church to share memories of the young woman.”Reema’s last name means forgiveness,” her father, Joe Samaha, told the crowd. He offered condolences to the families of other victims, as well as Cho’s family, “which has also lost a son.”A memorial service was also held Saturday in Virginia for Emily Hilscher, who was killed in the same dorm as Clark, a resident adviser.About 1,500 people filled the football field of Hilscher’s alma mater, Rappahannock County High School in Washington. The memorial was held outside on a warm spring day because Hilscher, 19, of Woodville, loved the outdoors and horseback riding. Several people came in riding outfits, and a hunting horn was played at the end of the service.Hilscher’s family described a woman with a strong will, a keen sense of fun and a maturity that made her a role model for the rest of her family. She taught her sister, Erica, to drive stick shift on her prized truck, staying with it even when her older sibling stalled in the middle of the road.”I admired her strength, her ability to be the rock,” Erica Hilscher said.And in Lincoln, R.I., about 100 people memorialized Daniel Patrick O’Neil, 22, a first-year graduate student in environmental engineering.”He lived life to its fullest and we know that his spirit and his influence on his friends will stay with them throughout their lives,” his family said in a news release before the service.The Georgia gym was packed with people wearing maroon and orange ribbons, Virginia Tech’s colors, or green ones, Clark’s favorite color.Rhonda Pirtle of Atlanta wore a Hokies football jersey, despite having no connection to the school or to Clark.”Every time I see Ryan Clark on TV, I think about my son, while he’s at school,” at Louisiana State University, she said.Jeff Czech, 23, a longtime friend of Clark’s who played in the high school band with him, said he was still in shock over his death.”He didn’t deserve this to happen to him, but he did deserve today to have the band and everyone who’s here in support of him,” Czech said.Funerals are planned Monday for Clark in Augusta, Ga., and for Samaha and Hilscher in McLean, Va.—Associated Press writers Derrill Holly in Chantilly, Va., and Stephen Manning in Washington, Va., and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.