City Desk

Remembering And Fighting For Erin Peterson

Yesterday, an important moment came between all the memorials and tributes marking the two-year anniversary of the massacre at Virgina Tech. Two victims' families filed lawsuits in Fairfax County. The families of Julia Kathleen Pryde and Erin Nicole Peterson had opted out of the $11 million settlement and had to meet a two-year time limit to file suits. They met their deadline.

Good for them.

I had a feeling the Peterson family would choose to fight over taking such a settlement. I had met them just hours after the tragedy. They had still not heard about their daughter. They waited in the lobby of a hotel/conference center. The medical examiner had quit for the night. The family refused to sleep.

In the morning after, the Peterson family still hadn't gotten word from the ME. They were furious. I was there in the lobby. They grew suspicious of Tech's volunteer handlers and flacks.They wanted to express their anger to reporters. The handlers tried to shield them, prevent them from talking, from straying far from the script. I chronicled the tense scene for a cover story.

Here's what the family told me about Erin:

Erin picked Virginia Tech because it was still close enough to home. This past weekend, she had been accepted into the university’s honor society fraternity and her parents drove down to take her shopping and out to dinner.

“She was just a super child,” says William Lloyd, Erin’s godfather. “Never ran the streets. Her and her dad, man, you couldn’t separate them. He lost a child from cancer —a daughter, 8 years old. A week later, [Erin] was born.”

The only time Erin and her father, Grafton, parted ways was when the Redskins played the Cowboys. “She was a Redskin,” Lloyd says. “He was a Cowboy.”

If you knew Erin, you'd be angry too. Mary Peterson told the volunteers that she was tried of watching them drink coffee. She wanted answers. Maybe now, the family will get those answers.

The two families would certainly have a supporter in Lucinda Roy, a V-Tech professor who tried to help Cho. She recently published a book called No Right To Remain Silent: The Tragedy at Virginia Tech. Yesterday afternoon, I heard her on NPR. She mourned the loss of her students. But she also mourned the behavior of the school's administration both before and after the tragedy. She suggested they simply have not done enough to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

Roy had tutored Cho one-on-one and had pressed him to get counseling. Yet, Roy told NPR, the administration has not once asked her for advice on how to prevent such tragedies from happening again. They never once solicited her experience or insight in the past two years.

*photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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  • creativemeaty

    I'm not surprised really. All moms think their kids are worth more than 11 mil.

  • Mary

    VT is a terrible school. I'll never send my kids there.

  • Erin

    "Creavtivemeaty" I can't believe you have the audacity to say something about the price of someone's life. You didn't know Erin Peterson--because if you did you would know of the amazing person she was. She was a beautiful and caring person. She was priceless.

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  • Cheryl

    VA Tech is not a terrible school, but the president of the school is a terrible person. I would only send my kids to Tech if the president and his cronies were removed from the school. It was quite apparent what was important to Steger on April 16th and it wasn't the faculty or students that had just been murdered on his campus...It was the loss of revenue.
    Kids are not safe on that campus and no one seems to know it.
    Nine months after the massacre, another student was having issues. Several students called the school concered for their friend. Guess what? Tech did nothing. The student they were concerned about went in to town and shot and killed himself in the parking lot of a Blacksburg shopping center. Luckily for others, he only wanted to harmed himself.
    It seems now-a-days the only way to effect change is to hit someone in their pockets, which is obviously what these families have to do in order to get answer because the ones that settled are not getting the answers they thought and were promise they were going to get.