By Michelle Kosinski, NBC News correspondent
It would be almost impossible to walk onto the Virginia Tech campus, past the fresh flower beds and perfect grey stone buildings, up to that semi-circle of 32 stones, to see those names-- and not have some of that emotion from one year ago come rushing back. It takes your breath away for a moment.
There have been changes to security and mental health policy on campuses around the country; there have been tributes made and donations sent; apologies rendered and goodbyes wrenched from this community; but for so many here, the emotion remains strong, and just beneath the surface.
Some survivors told us about having sudden, unexpected reactions to loud noises. And fear of unlocked doors.
But there is another reaction too, that isn't only evident because we tend to look for something "uplifting" after an act so unspeakably cold and violent: the desire of so many survivors to DO something positive to make the world a less violent, or just less unfeeling, place.
Lily Habtu, 23 years old, was the first person in her family to go to college; she was born in Sudan, her parents fled decades of violence in Eritrea to give her a better life, "to work hard, and come to America," she said. "And I get attacked, I almost die, in a classroom..." Her voice trails off into tears. She had been shot in the jaw in German class that day, and says she feels the pain and fear every day of her life-- and probably always will.
But one year later, the once extremely shy psychology major has become an activist for stricter gun laws. She spent this grim anniversary on Capitol Hill, lobbying and demonstrating.
So did many other survivors, and family members of those who did not live past class that day. You can see Lily at work in our story that is on the website tonight.
Colin Goddard, shot three times, insisted on volunteering in Africa last summer-- two months after leaving the hospital.
The Cloyd family, who lost their daughter Austin, have started a group that rehabilitates homes for people who can't afford it.
Students of French teacher Jocelyne Couture-Nowak have created a program to teach her beloved language to elementary school children. Tonight, that's where they'll be.
The group VT Engage challenged members of this close community to spend 10 hours in service -- adding up to hundreds of thousands of hours, helping other people in some simple but meaningful way.
It was a difficult day, people here not wanting to remember-- but not wanting to forget those names and faces either. Ever.
Friends of Ryan Clark wrote a note they left by his stone, telling him they miss his help in physics class. And for Leslie Sherman, a celebration of her 21st birtday, complete with a tiara on her memorial stone, and a pair of purple sparkly earrings. Those little pieces of life, symbols of youth and fun, are perhaps the most upsetting to see.
But students here have moved on, in many ways. Wanting to make something of all this, if it's impossible to make any real sense of it.
Those 32 names may hold silent witness on that drillfield, forever.
And students and parents and professors touched by this, do their good work, and build their good lives, in THEIR names.