Michael Pohle, Jr. was killed at Virginia Tech. His father, Michael Pohle, Sr., writes the followinG about his son:
“Hopefully, you will be able to get a little glimpse into what life with him was all about once you read this.
“It seems like just yesterday that Mike was taken from us. His smile, infectious laugh, and compassion for others will always be part of our memories. We are blessed to have two beautiful children whom we love dearly and who are also gifts from God that we will cherish, and protect, for the rest of our lives. We will also, unfortunately, never be whole. It has been said that there is nothing as painful as the loss of a child. That is true. Part of your soul and your reason for being leaves with the death of a child. We will always have to live with an emptiness that is impossible to fill. At times, Mike’s murder and his absence are very difficult on our remaining children. Nikki and Sean feel that they have to live up to the standard their dead brother set. No matter what you say to them, there is an expectation that cannot be fulfilled nor should it be. A tragedy like this can tear a family apart, but it is only as a family that we can continue on. Mike’s death changed our family. It changes any family; but even with that we will continue to survive and love each other more each day.
“Mike faced some tough times growing up like every child does, but, never let life get him down for long. He always had a positive outlook. Growing up, he endured teasing and ridicule at a young age because of a speech problem, yet, he refused to let that define him. Teresa and I felt horrible at the way he was treated and like any parent tried to do whatever we could so that it would stop. Mike not only overcame his difficulties, he loved trying different things such as being in the Cub Scouts, playing the guitar, earning a black belt in karate, and playing sports. From elementary school through middle school he played soccer, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse. Once he entered high school he decided to try out for the football team, and stayed with that and lacrosse for the next four years. He continued to play lacrosse at Virginia Tech and truly loved that experience. One of the things Mike was known for during his high school and college years, both in the classroom and on the field, was his drive to do his best and his commitment to his fellow students and his team.
“His compassion for others was reinforced for us the night prior to his funeral service at the wake we held so that people could come and pay their respects. We were in such awe at the hundreds of people who came to say goodbye. What touched us even more was the number of mothers and fathers who we had never known prior to the wake that actually thanked us for what Mike had done for their children. They told us stories of how their children had seemed so lost and alone in a high school of over 3,000 kids, yet, even though Mike didn’t know them he reached out to their son or daughter because he remembered how alone he felt when he was the target of jokes and didn’t feel like he had any friends. That touched our hearts so much and made us extremely proud even with our pain. That was the exact same behavior Mike took with him when he went to Virginia Tech.
“On April 16th, from the moment Mike’s sister, Nicki, and I arrived in Blacksburg late in the afternoon after hearing of the mass shootings in the news and not being able to reach Mike, we desperately tried to get any information we could to find out where he was, without any success. As the hours passed, our fears grew and we started to think the unthinkable, but never gave up hope nor stopped trying to find him. Even in the chaos, with thousands of people moving about, you knew that some of those individuals walking around were also families trying to find their child just like us. In New Jersey, Mike’s Aunt Liz and a number of our closest friends were at our home doing whatever they could to help my wife Teresa while praying that nothing had happened to him. Teresa had stayed home to keep us abreast of what was happening, and also with the expectation that Mike would call at any minute saying he was OK in a school of over 26,000 students. I called at different times to let Teresa know that we didn’t know anything, both during the time I was driving and once I had arrived. It was not until around 11:00 p.m., while sitting in a room with Nicki and a group of Mike’s friends at the hotel on Virginia Tech’s campus, that we were told that Mike was dead. Our hearts stopped at that instant. I then moved to the most secluded section of the room we were in and called home to give Teresa the news.
“There are no words that can describe that moment in our lives. Our souls were ripped apart. I don’t remember what was said, nor do I remember much of anything. The rest of the night was spent awake, crying and yelling, in Mike’s apartment. Someone stayed with Teresa constantly and more friends, and our priest, came to the house starting the next morning.
“Mike was “big brother” to Nicki and his younger brother Sean. He was four years older than Nicki and ten years older than Sean. Mike watched over them and always made sure they were OK. He was protective of Nicki especially when it came to dating other boys and would make sure they knew he was watching over her. At times, she may not have seemed very pleased with her older brother getting involved in her social life, but, the reality was that she felt very good knowing that Mike would always be there for her. When she went off to college at West Virginia, Mike was still at Virginia Tech and they stayed in close contact with each other, constantly joking about who would win the football game between the two schools. The football rivalry was one of the many things they talked about. The last year that Virginia Tech and West Virginia played each other in football we decided it would be fun if our family met in Morgantown to be together and enjoy the game. I remember what a beautiful day it was and there were thousands of West Virginia fans all around us wearing their jerseys as we tailgated. Teresa and I were each wearing two shirts, one on top of the other. The outer shirt was West Virginia colors and the inner shirt was Virginia Tech colors. Mike, on the other hand, was walking through the crowd proudly wearing his Virginia Tech jersey and hat while chanting “Let’s Go Hokies,” all the while making sure he was staying real close to his sister who was wearing her West Virginia colors, but, trying to get as far from her brother as she could. Although one might think that what Mike was doing in the midst of thousands of loyal home team fans was a recipe for disaster, everyone realized that what was going on was all in good fun and enjoyed the moment. There were also times where Mike and Nicki would fight like cats and dogs, but, through it all they had a bond of love that was very strong. On April 16th, after hearing the news of the shootings and not being able to reach her brother at Tech, Nicki didn’t think twice and immediately began to drive 5 ½ hours to Blacksburg to find him. There was no hesitation because it could involve Mike. She arrived in Blacksburg a couple hours ahead of me and kept us updated on her efforts to find him. Along with Mike’s girlfriend Marcy, and his other friends, they began to contact the local hospitals in the area to see where he might be since he was nowhere to be found.
“Sean saw Mike as not only his mentor, but, actually thought of him as his hero. Given their age difference, Sean never really saw how Mike had been treated when he was very young, but, he was his biggest fan in high school. Sean loved going to Mike’s games where he would see his brother on the field and his sister, a cheerleader, on the sidelines. Sean tried every sport that Mike had played, yet that was not where his real passion lay. Although Sean didn’t realize it then, Mike was his biggest fan. One of many memorable moments in Sean’s youth sports career happened during his first exposure to lacrosse. Sean was about seven years old and the referee for his game was not able to make it. To his surprise, his big brother Mike was asked if he would referee the game instead. Of course Mike said he would, but, the surprise that made us all laugh was that Mike had to blow the whistle for a foul and make Sean go to the penalty box for one minute. What was precious was watching Sean, again seven years old, walk up to Mike and look up at his big brother and ask him why he was putting his brother in the penalty box, to which Mike replied “I am so sorry Sean,” gave him a hug, and they walked together to where Sean had to stand for his penalty time. When Sean was allowed back into the game the two of them hugged and everything was good. It was just a special moment. Mike and Sean were buddies. They would spend time together from watching cartoons to doing homework to just running around together.”
* * *
When looking at the missteps at Virginia Tech, and the willingness of school officials to turn a blind eye toward the facts and even spread false information to cover their tracks, Mike’s father was right when he said, “People just don’t care anymore about responsibility and duty.” I would add, that some Virginia Tech officials and state politicians pursued and promoted out-and-out lies with an unusually high degree of callousness; they intentionally investigated the Tech massacre in a way to prevent any repercussions on the school or its employees. They suffered from collective memory loss, and when speaking apparently could not tell the truth without lying. (To be continued)