Ryan Clark, a graduate of Lakeside High School, died in the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech five years ago. (WRDW-TV / April 19, 2012)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, April 19, 2012
EVANS, Ga. -- It's been five years, this week, since the deadliest single-gunman attack in U.S. history.
Ryan Clark, 22, was one of the very first victims in that deadly shooting. He was a graduate from Lakeside High School.
Now there's a renewed push to keep Ryan's memory alive. There's an annual scholarship in his name and a growing effort to name a future Columbia County Athletic Complex after Ryan.
They are big honors that mean the world to his mother.
"It's ... it goes without saying it touches my heart," said Letitie Clark, Ryan's mother.
Letitie gets a little emotional when she talks about the community helping to carry on her son's legacy.
"Ryan isn't forgotten, he's not gone. He lives on. He's not forgotten, and he's in my heart, even stronger," she said.
Ryan was killed on April 16, 2007, in his dorm at Virginia Tech. He was rushing to help a fellow student and was one of the first ones killed.
"If he thought something was wrong, he was going to check on you and he did check, and unfortunately, they all did not walk out of that room," she said.
Julie Miller, director of Columbia County Community Connections, remembers the day vividly.
"On April 16, 2007, I was watching the news like a lot of people were and was just really overwhelmed of the awfulness of that terrible day," she said.
Miller decided a scholarship would be a wonderful way to honor Ryan and his dedication to helping others.
"We decided that it would be based on community service because Ryan was very involved in community service," she said.
There's also a push to have the future $12 million Lakeside Athletic Complex named after Ryan.
"He's been given so many great honors but there's no greater honor than one given by family and that's what Lakeside High School and Columbia County is to us," Letitie said.
And as thousands remember Ryan and the other victims on this fifth anniversary, his legacy continues to shine bright here at home.
"It's hard ... it's very hard. We spend it doing what Ryan would want us to do and that's taking every moment to live life," Letitie explained.
The $1,000 scholarship winner will be announced May 3 at a banquet at Lakeside High School. This year they're excited to be able to offer two $500 scholarships as well.
And things are looking promising for the athletic complex. The school board seems to be on board with it and county commissioners say they are reviewing the request and working on a policy on how to move forward, but everyone agrees Ryan certainly is deserving.