Mike Pohl with friend Greg Gecik on the Virginia Tech campus at a memorial to the shooting victims. His 23-year-old son Mike Jr. was killed in his German class. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
BLACKSBURG, Va., April 17 There was a trivia game Mike Pohle and his fiancee, Marcy Crevonis, liked to play called Imaginiff, where they took turns posing silly questions: Imagine if you were a circus performer, what would you be? Imagine if you were a car, a color, a movie. They had their own version of the game, too, where they imagined the life they planned to spend together. Mike already had named the five children they would have.
He was 23 when he was killed in his Monday morning German class at Virginia Tech.
She is 19, left trying to imagine a life without him.
Michael Stephen Pohle Jr. was due to graduate with a degree in biochemistry in just three weeks, worrying about finding the right job and staying close to Marcy, a freshman who graduated from Langley High in McLean and met him at a mutual friend's party last fall. They argued over their favorite sports teams, and were inseparable from then on. She gave him a Phillies jersey last Christmas, and he slept in it every night. Yesterday she went back to his apartment and put it on, inhaling the lost scent of him as she lay on his empty bed and wept.
"We were the same person. We shared the same thoughts. We finished each other's sentences," she says, standing on the emerald green Drillfield, where they often met between classes, and where state troopers now order Marcy and Mike's grieving family to move back, move back, move back because President Bush is about to arrive to pay respects at the makeshift VT shrine to 31 students and faculty members murdered in Monday's rampage.
We were the same person. We shared the same thoughts," Mike Pohle's fiancee Marcy Crevonis said. (family photo)
Marcy remembers waking up in Mike's arms that morning. "He's a big guy, so it's hard for me to sleep with my head on his chest, but I did Sunday night, and I heard his heart beating."
Go back to sleep, he told her, you don't have to get up.
But they always walked each other to class, so Marcy sleepily got dressed and joined him on the way to his 9:05 Intro to German class in Room 207 of Norris Hall. They had time to stop at Marcy's dorm first -- she needed her book for Russian in an hour -- but a police officer at the door of West Ambler Johnston Hall turned her away. The dorm was locked down, he said without explanation. Marcy thought nothing of it. "People were always pulling the fire alarm, and there had been the bomb threats."
Mike urged her to go back to his apartment. She remembers that it was 9:02. The last time she would ever speak with him.
Marcy headed back to the dorm, determined to get her book. She slipped in unchallenged through a side door, and went up to her room. People in the hallway were talking about a shooting or someone being hurt on the fourth floor. Marcy sent Mike a text message saying something seemed to be going on.
Where are you? Lock your door. I don't want you roaming. Be safe, keep me updated, he replied. He was always protective that way. Marcy felt invincible with Mike beside her. "He could bench-press like 400 pounds," she boasts.
Marcy was watching something stupid on TV, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," she thinks, when a news bulletin broke in reporting a gunman on the loose at Virginia Tech. A girl returning to the dorm from class said police cars were everywhere, that something was going on across campus. "I was panicked," Marcy recalls. She tried to call Mike, but he didn't answer. She messaged him: Call me asap.
At 9:55, when his German class was supposed to be out, Marcy raced across the campus toward Norris Hall. She had to reach him, tell him they needed to get away, something bad was happening. A police cordon stopped her.
Forced to wait back at the dorm, "I called and I called and I called," but Mike didn't answer, she says. "I thought, there are so many buildings over there, he's never going to choose Mike's building." Friends began calling to ask how she was. "I didn't care how I was. I was just trying to find Mike." Hours passed without word. Marcy reached Mike's younger sister, Nicole, at college in West Virginia, and she called home to Flemington, N.J. Mike Sr. began driving south.
Now they stand grieving together on the Drillfield, Mike's father, his sister and her boyfriend, his godfather and the brown-eyed girl he gave a Tiffany heart to last Christmas. "Mike told me every day: We're getting married," Marcy says. It was more a given than a proposal. She had been wondering if the ring might come on her 20th birthday -- May 13. The day after Mike's graduation. He always said he didn't want to be officially engaged for more than a year, but he'd been hinting about a big present.
"He was a tough guy on the outside, but he was romantic," Marcy says. He filled her dorm room with rose petals and chocolate kisses on Valentine's Day. When they went to the Bahamas for spring break, he dipped his powerful arms in the surf and cleared a path because Marcy was scared of "random things in the sea" touching her.
His father is waiting to collect what the coroner's office refers to as Mike's "effects" and what Marcy says is a book bag stuffed with every paper he probably had this semester. She was the organized one.
They cooked dinner together on the weekend nights when he wasn't tending bar at the Nerv, and she laughs through sobs remembering their attempt at fried chicken -- was it only three days ago? -- and how they nearly set his apartment on fire. The smoke was so thick they couldn't see each other. They loved to sleep past noon on Sundays and argue whether their imaginary daughter's name should be Emily Rose or Victoria Rose. Mike favored the latter.
And if their kids ever got in trouble, Mike vowed, he wouldn't lay a hand on them but, Marcy recounts, "he would make them run obstacles and wind sprints instead."
"Always the jock," his father comments, managing a smile. The dean of students told the Pohles that Mike will be awarded his diploma posthumously. Marcy has been excused from classes for the rest of the year, and will go home with the Pohles to bury the man she loved. She'll come back to Tech next year, she says, "because Mike would have wanted it that way." He loved this place.
They would live someday in a cozy house near the water, maybe Savannah or Williamsburg, and backpack through Europe, and sleep past noon on Sundays and argue forever about her beloved Yankees and his Phillies. She would let him name their daughter Victoria, not Emily, and fall asleep each night in the arms of a man who would sweep the ocean floor for her.