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Beamer's son grieves for alma mater from South Carolina

PETE IACOBELLI • Apr 19, 2007 at 12:33 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Shane Beamer was playing golf at a Gamecock Club outing Monday when he first got word of the shootings at his alma mater, Virginia Tech.

Beamer, who coaches outside linebackers and helps coordinate special teams for South Carolina, didn't know what to think: Was his dad, Hokies head coach Frank Beamer, hurt? Were people he knew injured or killed? How could this happen at some place so special?

"I was in shock," Beamer said Wednesday, two days after the shooting that left 32 people and the accused gunman dead.

When fellow Gamecock assistant Ron Cooper told Beamer about the devastating death toll, "it hit me like a ton of bricks," the young Beamer said. "All I tried to do was call home. But I couldn't get through."

At last, Beamer's mother, Cheryl, called her son to let him know his father, the football staff and players were safe and accounted for.

Then came the untold hours of TV watching to hear updates of the unfolding tragedy, and the realization of how close the devastation came to the Hokies' football program.

Shane Beamer said the first shooting on campus was across from the football office. The other was near an athletic dorm. "That's what made this so scary," he said. "You didn't know."

Beamer finally talked with his father, Frank, who grew up an hour from the Blacksburg, Va., campus and has become one its more high-profile personalities in 20 years leading the football program.

The elder Beamer is as heartbroken as everyone else there. But Shane Beamer, a former player for the Hokies, said his father will do what he can to help heal the grieving campus.

"He's still in shock, in disbelief that something like that could happen," Shane Beamer said. "But he's a fighter. He and everybody else has an attitude that they're not going to let one person stop them. They're never going to forget those who lost their lives. But they're going to fight to make it a better, stronger place."

The Hokies canceled the rest of spring practice and the yearly well-attended, intra-squad game that closes the drills.

Shane Beamer joined South Carolina's staff in February. He spent the previous three seasons at Mississippi State.

Shane Beamer says he and his sister, Casey - also a Virginia Tech graduate who lives in Charlotte, N.C. - discussed heading to Blacksburg to grieve with their family. Their parents counseled them to stay put for now.

The Gamecock staff is back to recruiting next week and perhaps that will make things normal again, Shane Beamer said.

But he understands it will be difficult for anyone to hear about Virginia Tech without the horrible shooting jumping to mind.

"That's what makes you so sick," Shane Beamer said. "Before the first things you thought about were great school, beautiful campus, great football program."

The massacre "will be something that Virginia Tech will always be known for," Shane Beamer said.

If the younger Beamer gets his wish, his father and the rest of the Hokies athletic department will go a long way in helping the campus heal. "I hope that Virginia (Tech) goes out and wins a championship in football and then wins one in basketball," he said.

So Shane Beamer says he'll continue watching news programs filled with the tragic events when he can - and taping them to view later on when he's working.

Shane Beamer thinks the country will come to have a great respect for the campus and its community. "I don't have any doubts they'll come out of it better than ever," he said. "People will see the love of students and alumni that will show up. People will realize it's a tight-knit group that will stick together."

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