It’s been five years since the tragedy that took the lives of 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg. Celeste Peterson lost her 18-year-old daughter, Erin after being shot by Seung-Hui Cho, who attended High School with Erin in their hometown of Centreville, Virginia. Celeste spoke to the Los Angeles Times about what life has been like since that dreadful day, suing the university and why it’s too painful to go back to campus.
As we approach the five-year anniversary of the shooting at Virginia Tech, The Times revisited one of the relatives of those killed, Celeste Peterson, 52, of Centreville, Va. who spoke with us five years ago. Peterson’s 18-year-old daughter Erin was among the 32 killed on April 16, 2007.
“I still cry, not as openly as I used to,” Peterson said in an interview. “But I never want to stop these tears, because Erin was worth it.”
Erin and the gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, had attended the same high school in Centreville. While most victims’ families reached legal settlements with the university the following year, the agreement allowed Virginia Tech to deny liability— something Peterson and her husband, Grafton, could not accept.
So they joined another victim’s parents and sued in civil court, arguing school officials could have saved lives by alerting students more quickly about the shooter. Last month, a jury found in the families’ favor and awarded each $4 million, which the state has attempted to cap at $100,000 each.
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