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Students remember massacre victims

Students have returned to class at Virginia Tech, the first year the school has not suspended study to mark the anniversary of a 2007 rampage which left 32 people and the gunman dead.

The massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Provost Mark McNamee, who chaired a committee that planned memorial events in the years after the shooting, said the return to classes reflects the lives of those killed.

"Their passion for education, their desire to do good in the world, their commitment to their disciplines come through so strongly that we felt being in classes was one special way of remembering them onward," said Mr McNamee.

"This is what they did, this is what we do, and it's important to us. My sense is that our students and our faculty are ready for it."

The day was remembered in other ways on the Blacksburg campus, in Washington, and by alumni across the country. An estimated 9,000 gathered in the Drillfield at the heart of campus to attend a candlelight vigil, similar to one held in the immediate aftermath of the shootings.

The shootings are "almost too terrible to remember", President Charles Steger told the crowd as candles danced in the wind. "But we will never forget. Five years has done nothing to diminish our sorrow."

Virginia governor Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation recognising April 16 as Virginia Tech Remembrance Day, honouring the 32 lives that were "hastily taken, leaving absences that will never be filled and a profound sense of sorrow in the lives of those impacted", the proclamation reads in part.

At 9.43am - the time when gunman Seung-Hui Cho began killing 30 students and professors at Norris Hall - Mr McDonnell was calling for a moment of silence in Virginia. The Capitol Square Bell Tower in Richmond tolled for each victim. Cho had earlier killed two students in a dormitory.

On campus, events included a community picnic on the Drillfield, a display of memorial items sent to Virginia Tech from other colleges and universities and performances. Several locations were set aside on campus as "quiet places for reflection".

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