Caitlin Millar Hammaren
Major: International Studies and French
Hometown: Westtown, NY
High School: Minisink Valley (Slate Hill, NY) - Class of 2005
Died along with Prof. Couture-Nowak and 10 other students in French class.
Audio Remembrances From NPR (visit NPR's VT Remembrance Page to listen):
Dr. Martha Murray on Caitlin Hammaren: ‘She Was a Wonderful Music Student’
Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues
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Facebook memorial page: R.I.P Caitlin Hammaren
Newspaper Remembrance Stories
A Best Friend to Everyone She
Caitlin Hammaren sang, rode horses, belonged to Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and served as the resident adviser of the Resident Leadership Community at Peddrew Yates Hall, a campus dormitory, according to suitemate Rochelle Low, an accounting student from Richmond. “She loved being nice to people,” Low said. “Her attitude … was to be a best friend to everybody she met.”
— Jeff Sturgeon (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)
York Times Profile:
As a junior at Minisink Valley High School in upstate New York, Caitlin Hammaren won an excellence award -- and to those around her it was clear why.
She rode horses, played violin, excelled at tennis and led the school's chorus. She was one of a small group of students selected in her junior year to attend a weeklong mock-government program at a nearby college for young women with records of academic achievement.
And to top it all off, she was a member of the school's honor society.
"She was just one of the most outstanding young individuals that I've had the privilege of working with in my 31 years as an educator," John P. Latini, the principal of Minisink Valley High School, where Ms. Hammaren graduated in 2005, told The Associated Press. "Caitlin was a leader among our students."
An only child and native of Westtown, N.Y., Ms. Hammaren, 19, was among the students who were shot and killed at Norris Hall on Monday. According to friends, she was majoring in international studies and French, and was also involved in a number of campus organizations, including her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma.
Ms. Hammaren and several of her sorority sisters were scheduled to take part in a walk this Friday -- the Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society -- to raise money for cancer research and survivors. On a Web site that had been set up to help Ms. Hammaren and her sisters raise support for the walk, donations in her name trickled in throughout the day.
On another Web site created in Ms. Hammaren's memory, one Virginia Tech student, identified as Katrina Broas, posted a note that said: "This tragedy couldn't have happened to a nicer girl. You always put smiles on everyone's face, you were the one who wasn't afraid what everyone else thought, and you would go out of your way to say Hi! You are missed dearly, you have touched the lives of anyone you ever met."
Sophomore was 'a real role model'
Caitlin Hammaren, 19, of Westtown, N.Y., was a sophomore majoring in international studies and French and a resident adviser at the Peddrew-Yates dormitory at Virginia Tech.
She wanted to go into international politics to try to make a difference, said Martha Murray, superintendent of the Minisink Valley Central School District where Hammaren attended high school.
"It really bears what a crazy world we live in," she said. "She was more than most a real role model. She would encourage the kids to be positive when they were grumbling."
"Caiti" was in the top 10% of her class and was a member of the National Honors Society and the junior varsity tennis team. Murray remembers her for her musical talents. Hammaren was an alto in the choir and violinist in the all-county orchestra.
"She certainly was one to sing with a smile on her face," Murray said.
Hammaren was an only child. Her parents were in Blacksburg on Tuesday. They plan to hold the funeral there and a memorial service at home, said Murray, who spoke to Hammaren's father.
"I asked what we could do for them," Murray said. "His answer was to celebrate her life."
Washington Post Profile:
Caitlin Hammaren, a sophomore who would have turned 20 in May, was thinking about becoming a lawyer, according to those who knew her at Minisink Valley High School near Middletown, N.Y.
Hammaren left such a mark that her high school music teacher, principal and even district superintendent remembered her vividly yesterday as they absorbed the fact that she is gone.
"She was a lovely young lady," said Martha Murray, superintendent of Minisink Valley Central School District in Orange County. "She was talking about being a lawyer. She'd actually inquired about it with one of our local attorneys just recently."
Hammaren graduated from high school in 2005 and was studying international studies at Tech. She was president of her high school choir and a member of the National Honor Society, Murray said.
-- Amy Gardner, The Washington Post
Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:
A few months ago, Caitlin Hammaren, 19, stopped by Minisink Valley Central School, in Slate Hill, N.Y., to listen to the school’s chamber choir. The tall, slim brunette slipped in and out of the performance, leaving only the shadow of her characteristically bubbly personality.
“If I hadn’t seen her back there, I wouldn’t even have known she was there,” says Victor Izzo III, the school’s choral director, who had relied on her contribution to the chamber choir and mixed chorus.
If she had stopped to chat, Ms. Hammaren might have talked with Mr. Izzo, her mentor and former choral director, about her decision to major in international studies and French, a plan to raise money with her sorority sisters in Kappa Kappa Gamma this spring to fight cancer, or the challenges of serving as a resident assistant to mostly first-year students in Peddrew-Yates Hall at Virginia Tech, where she was a sophomore.
“She liked spirituals, she liked the upbeat stuff, but she always found the spirit in any song,” Mr. Izzo says. Her alto voice “was exactly what I needed when I needed it, no matter when it was.”
She never sought to stand out, he says, but she led by example, even in the most awkward circumstances.
When Ms. Hammaren was a sophomore in high school, Mr. Izzo recalls, “we were at our state competition and she got a bloody nose. And she completed the song even though her nose was bloody. She went and stuffed tissues up her nose and finished the performance,” he says. “She didn’t even miss a note.”
Even though he hasn’t seen her since she graduated, in 2005, John P. Latini, Minisink’s principal, remembers her clearly. She was always smiling, he says, and quick to greet him in passing: “How are you doing, Mr. Latini?”
She “just always carried herself very well; she was a mature student,” he says.
At 17, Ms. Hammaren joined a group of high-school juniors at the State University of New York at Brockport for a weeklong exercise in governance with Girls State, a leadership program organized by the American Legion.
“She always seemed a cut above, and kids admired her, as did staff,” Mr. Latini says.
Slain Westtown teen's friends, teacher talk of her
legacy of compassion and creativity
Caitlin Hammaren rode a horse named Poet and once dreamed of being an equestrian chiropractor.
She was president of her high school chorus, one of the top students at Minisink Valley High School, "a beautiful, sparkling" girl with an infectious smile, according to some of the people who knew her best.
At Virginia Tech, she became a resident assistant and "mother hen" to her dorm mates.
But the 19-year-old Westtown girl who cared so much about so many, who studied international politics and French and wanted to live in a big city, left her dreams in an engineering building on campus.
That's where (the shooter) opened fire on students in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. He killed 33 people in all, including himself.
Hammaren was one of those people, and the world is worse for it.
"There's no one who's perfect, but she was pretty close to perfect," said her high school friend, Laura Thelander. "I can't imagine her being gone."
Thelander's friend left legends behind at Minisink Valley.
Vic Izzo, the chorus director, still tells students, "Sing it the way Caitlin would have sung it."
"Not too many other students I've had have been like her. Maybe a handful," Izzo said. "If you knew Caitlin, you knew her as a sister."
If other kids were talking in class, Hammaren would take it personally. She'd tell Izzo to go wait in the hall. He'd come back to a silent room with the kids ready to sing.
When one alto section in the chorus adopted a cow as a mascot, Hammaren embraced "steak sauce" for her alto section. She painted a bottle of sauce on the chorus room wall and made up T-shirts for her section. Now all section leaders in the chorus create T-shirts, carrying on her tradition.
And Izzo still talks about the time Hammaren got a bloody nose during one choral concert. She ran backstage during a break, shoved some toilet paper up her nose, and went back on stage, snorting up the blood as it dripped down.
"She didn't miss a note," he said. "She didn't want to disappoint anybody."
And it seems she never did.
Just months after taking up the violin during her sophomore year, Hammaren was playing solos in public. She also earned a spot playing violin in the pit orchestra, and the challenge didn't rattle her.
"Whoops, won't do that again," she'd say with a smile after a screw-up during practice. She'd always nail the melody the second time around.
But talk about Hammaren, and the people who knew her always come back to her eyes, "like sparkling diamonds," and her huge smile.
Both of them gave her tremendous sway with friends.
For example, she'd suggest they go get a pizza in Middletown after school.
"Before I knew it, I'd be in the car on my way to get pizza," said Andrew Mattfield, a high school friend.
At her junior prom, she wore a hand-made Renaissance dress and went with a boy who wore a purple kilt. They never thought twice about what other kids would think.
There was compassion behind Hammaren's sparkling eyes.
For six years running, she served food at the Pulaski Fire Company's annual pancake breakfast.
As a senior, she joined the freshman chorus at Minisink Valley just to help guide the younger kids.
At Virginia Tech, she was one of her sorority's leading fundraisers in the Relay for Life.
"She probably lived better than most of us who've lived three times as long," said Wendy Paffenroth, a neighbor and close family friend.
The family of Caitlin Hammaren is planning to hold her funeral at Virginia Tech. A local memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.
Caitlin Millar Hammaren had a way of making others feel as if they were her best friend. Her smile was contagious and her eyes sparkled under any circumstances.
Born on May 4, 1987, and from Westtown, N.Y., Caitlin was president of the Minisink Valley High School choir and a member of the National Honor Society. For years, she served food at the Pulaski fire company's annual pancake breakfast.
At Virginia Tech, where Caitlin was a sophomore double majoring in international studies and French, she continued caring about and helping people. She was events chair for her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and was one of their top fundraisers in the Relay for Life. She was also a resident advisor in the Residential Leadership Community. Her passion for that role was so strong that she took care of each of her residents as if they were her own children. As a result, she was inducted into the National Residence Hall Honorary, an organization that recognizes only the top 1 percent of residence hall leaders.
Caitlin dedicated her time outside her studies to many activities close to her heart, among them riding horses, singing, and playing the violin.
She will be missed by all who knew her.
Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Caitlin Millar Hammaren Memorial Scholarship has been established at Virginia Tech in her memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.