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Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
Virginia students return to class
Students hold balloons at a ceremony remembering those killed at Virginia Tech
A white balloon was released for each of those killed a week ago
A balloon has been released for each of the victims killed in last week's rampage at Virginia Tech University, as students returned to classes.

A bell tolled 32 times to commemorate all of those killed by Cho Seung-hui last Monday in the deadliest shooting incident in modern US history.

On Sunday, a special service was held at the Washington National Cathedral.

The service began with a procession of officials and university graduates carrying a candle for each of the dead.

One candle represented the South Korean-born gunman, who was also known as Seung Cho.

In a similar sign of reconciliation, mourners at Virginia Tech have added a 33rd stone representing Cho's life to a victims' memorial on the school's drill field.

'Moving forward'

Students and staff gathered outside the university's main administration building on Monday morning for a minute's silence, after which a single bell tolled 32 times and 32 white balloons were released.

I think I'm feeling good about starting school again - I think it was really just an unfortunate event that happened in our campus
Patrick Drioma

A thousand maroon and orange balloons - Virginia Tech's colours - were released afterwards.

The university was not certain how many students planned to attend classes after the ceremony, but many arrived back on campus on Sunday evening feeling apprehensive.

"I have a lot of mixed emotions about it," Amy Berry, a final-year Communications student told Reuters.

"Part of me is glad that the university has decided to continue classes, and the other part of me, like most students are going to be feeling on Monday morning, is anxious, anxiety about having to go to class because of what had happened just a week ago."

Other students, however, were more sanguine.

Virginia Tech memorial at Washington's National Cathedral
Memorial services have been held across the US

"I think I'm feeling good about starting school again," Patrick Drioma, a first-year student from New Jersey said.

"I think it was really just an unfortunate event that happened in our campus. I don't think Virginia Tech is any less safe or anything now."

For those students who feel unable to return to class, the university authorities have given them the option of completing their courses with the grade based on the work they have done so far, or drop any courses without penalty.

In order to make those who do return feel at ease, the university has offered counselling services and the state police will be present.

The Virginia Tech Student Government Association has also issued a statement asking the media to respect the students' privacy and leave the campus before classes begin.

"Our students are ready to start moving forward, and the best way we can do that is to get the campus back to normal," Liz Hart, the SGA's director of public relations told reporters.

Ms Hart said they did not want "anything external to remind us it will be a difficult road".

The shootings began when two people were killed at the West Ambler Johnston Hall, a university dormitory, at 0715 on Monday.

Two hours later Cho shot dead 30 students and teachers, before killing himself, at the Norris Hall complex across campus.

Authorities have not yet linked the 23-year-old to any of those he killed.

Police say the same gun was used at both locations but have not definitely proved that Cho was at West Ambler Johnston at the time of the shootings there.




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Students return to Virginia Tech



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