Ten years later, loss of courageous, vivacious Spartan at VA Tech still stings
April 20, 2017
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Not just one of the 32.
Ten years ago, the world witnessed a horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech. Thirty-two students were lost in the shooting that April morning, but today we honor one: Spartan Leslie Sherman.
Leslie was known for being an avid runner, a history buff, and a courageous volunteer in the community but she is perhaps most remembered for her loving attitude toward life.
“My favorite memory of Leslie is pretty simple; it was her smile. She had a wonderful smile,” said former Cross Country and Track coach Ed Linz.
Linz met Leslie when she was a freshman going out for Cross Country. They quickly bonded over their shared sense of humor, creating a strong relationship filled with jokes at long practices and stories on long bus rides to away meets.
“She had a sort of a swingy style of running that wasn’t very efficient and she wasn’t very good,” said Linz. “But she tried harder than just about everybody on the team [and] was the kind of runner that was always cheering on everybody else.”
Leslie ran 12 straight seasons on our Cross Country and Track team, never as a Varsity athlete or state champion but as the strongest component of the team’s support system. Her teammates rested under her comfortable wing and the love she had for people is what they remember most about her.
Her love for people is what propelled her toward the subject of history.
“She was so passionate about history. She wanted to experience life and serve others,” said former AP United States History teacher Maggie Tran.
Tran and Leslie spent class and in-between periods talking passionately about history and ranking former presidents on an attractiveness scale. Tran recounted how, during Leslie’s junior year, she was required to explain the entire New Deal program to her class. Feeling sorry for her students, she baked them cookies. Leslie expressed great gratitude for this act of kindness.
“She wrote me a very articulate letter thanking me for that,” said Tran. “Ever since, every year I teach the New Deal, I bring chocolate chip cookies in for my students and tell them about Leslie.”
Her passion for history is what made her president of the History Honor Society and pushed her to take Applied History, which landed her an internship at Frying Pan Park during her senior year. Her love for the subject was reflected in her daily life, as she tried her best to emulate her historic heroes.
“Leslie learned about how civil rights leader John L. Lewis worked in the cafeteria to put himself through college,” said Tran. “This inspired Leslie to work in the cafeteria at Virginia Tech to just have the experience of working that kind of hard, menial labor. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Who does that?’ She was just incredible.”
James Percoco, Leslie’s Applied History teacher, instantly formed a connection with her because of her bright personality and her kindness toward others. Her senior year, Percoco found out that she had a crush on author David McCullough, and since he was friends with McCullough he was able to get the noted historian to autograph a book for her.
“On Monday I saw her in the hall and called her over. [I] said ‘Leslie, I got [a] thing for you, open the title page,’” said Percoco. “She goes, ‘Mr. Percoco, Mondays are usually really rotten but there is no way that this Monday could be rotten.’”
On Percoco’s desk at home sits a picture of Leslie with her crush McCullough. He says that he carries Leslie’s memory with him every day.
“She was just great, a wonderful human being,” said Percoco. “I knew she cared about people, I knew she cared about her subject.”
Leslie’s love for her community shined not only through her interactions with her teachers and fellow Spartans, but the greater Springfield community when she held the first ever NHS sponsored Greenspring Prom. The event was held again this year at the senior citizens’ home in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of her passing.
Every person Leslie touched at WS remembers her in a different way. Her best friends in high school saw her as a bold and strong individual with just the right amount of sweet and sassy.
It has been a decade since the shooting, and Leslie’s unique legacy is still remembered through track meets and volunteering dedicated to her in the month of April. Her smile and loving personality will always be with us.
“Her death reflects a life of an unfulfilled promise,” said Percoco. “The world lost something that day.”