Sam Riggs was one of the most outgoing, energetic, intelligent people you’d ever met. He was a sophomore in high school, taking advanced classes, playing trumpet in band and in line to be co-captain of the academic team with me. He grew up a huge Hokie fan and worked hard in school to achieve his goal to attend Virginia Tech after graduation. But on April 16, 2006, that dream ended. Maybe his family saw signs that his friends didn’t. What we do know is that night, Sam went to a friend’s house while they were out of town, got an unsecured gun and killed himself in their garage. That family discovered him later that night.
Most people say the grief lessens with time, especially for someone you aren’t related to or didn’t love. But exactly one year later, a student with a lot of anger and a history of unaddressed mental health problems gunned down 32 people at Virginia Tech. As the state of Virginia remembers and grieves every year, so do those who remember Sam. This past year was the first I didn’t let it debilitate me. I’m honoring Sam with action to prevent gun suicide.