Reema Samaha

Age: 18

Class: Freshman

Major: Urban Planning Minor: French and International Studies

Hometown: Centreville, VA

High School: Westfield (Chantilly, VA) - Class of 2006

Died along with Prof. Couture-Nowak and 10 other students in French class.


Audio/Video Remembrances

CNN video: Mourning a sister lost

CBS/The Early Show video: A brother's pain

YouTube videos:

In loving memory of Reema Samaha (by jeanae82) (music by Sting)

Reema Samaha FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS (by alprince1) (music by Elton John)

Tribute For Reema Samaha (by alih2003)

R.I.P. Reema Samaha (by thewhisperlou)

In the Memory of Reema Samaha (by siwaro)

Reema Samaha (A memorial video from Amustela) (byrnmrozjr)

To our Reema (by siwaro)

Virginia Tech Massacre Reema (by Loayandi)

Audio Remembrances From NPR (visit NPR's VT Remembrance Page to listen):

Luann McNabb on Reema Samaha: 'Reema Had a Love of Life That Was Infectious'

Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues

Submit your personal remembrance for posting here (please include your name and relationship).

Statement From Virginia's Tech's Contemporary Dance Ensemble:

The Contemporary Dance Ensemble has spent the recent days together mourning the loss of our close friend and fellow dancer, Reema Samaha. We also spent this time remembering the year that we got to spend together. The first thing we all remembered was the day she auditioned for the group. After just a few minutes we were so taken by her dancing that we knew that she would fit perfectly into our group. She was a beautiful girl with big almond eyes and an irresistible smile. Her dancing was not just moves put together, but she lived dance. Her whole body felt the dance and she was completely captivating to watch.

Two days before the tragic events at Virginia Tech, the Contemporary Dance Ensemble had its semi-annual show. This was Reema's first year in the group and she had choreographed a belly dancing piece for the event. Although her fellow CDE members had no experience in belly dance, Reema explained everything in such a way that the experience was not only a success but everyone looked forward to going to her rehearsals every week. In addition to her own dance, Reema participated in 6 other dances choreographed by other members and shined in each dance she was in. Audience members noticed her outstanding talent in each piece. Reema embraced every style of dance, and that energy radiated to the audience.

After the show, Reema's parents talked to a few of our members. They told one member about how well Reema was doing at her first year at Tech and how proud they were of her. They said that she had really blossomed here and they were very happy for her. This was definitely a truthful statement. If you walked around campus with her, every minute or so she would stop to talk to another friend she saw walking by. She was immediate friends with everyone she met and she had a certain presence about her that made people instantly drawn to her. She was excited about all events on campus and was involved in many groups. Everything she did, she did it with drive and pure enthusiasm.

Reema has left a mark on the Contemporary Dance Ensemble and the group will forever be changed by her contributions over the past year. We all mourn the loss of such a beautiful dancer and human being and our hearts feel for her family. We wish that her family will find comfort in knowing that Reema's life has touched many people and that she will be loved forever.

Newspaper Remembrance Stories

She Spent Her Life Dancing
(Roanoke Times Profile)

Though just a college freshman, Reema Samaha had already spent much of her life onstage and doing what she loved: Dancing.

“You could say dance was basically her life,” said Souheil Samaha, Reema’s cousin, a graduate student at Virginia Tech.

In 2005, as a student at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Reema Samaha won a “Cappie” critic’s choice award for her work in “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The following year, she served as dance captain during a production of “Oklahoma” and played eccentric Aunt Martha in “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

“She tends to hit on the younger males in the play,” Reema said of her character in a 2006 interview with Connection Newspapers.

At Tech, she continued working in dance and brought her heritage into her art when she could.

“She was a Lebanese American,” Souheil Samaha said. “She was very, very into ... presenting Lebanon in dance.

“Just yesterday, she was choreographing the traditional Lebanese dance for the international festival.”

— Neil Harvey (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)

New York Times Profile:

Reema Samaha, 18, a freshman who had yet to decide on a major, was shot and killed in her French class. She was an avid dancer and actor who devoted much of her time to the school's Contemporary Dance Ensemble, a student organization.

As a high school student, she won awards for her performances, including one for her role in "Fiddler on the Roof." A family friend, Luann McNabb, remembers her winning a high school talent show last year with a belly dance

. "She was so full of joy," Ms. McNabb said through tears.

Nicole Bonfiglio, a fellow student at Virginia Tech and former classmate at Westfield High School, remembered Reema in a tribute on the website Facebook as "one of my first friends in high school."

"We sat next to each other in bio freshman year," she wrote. "You were one of the kindest people I met that year and throughout high school. Nobody ever had anything but good things to say about you."

Her brother, Omar Samaha, told MSNBC: "I couldn't sleep last night. Every time I was trying to fall asleep, more things would pop into my head.

"I know I'll get through it," he added, "and I'm going to pray for everyone else."

The youngest of three, Ms. Samaha followed her older brother, Omar, to Virginia Tech. Her family and friends feared that something was wrong on Monday when she failed to answer her phone.

They finally decided to drive down to Blacksburg on Monday afternoon. They learned that Reema was one of the victims when they arrived four hours later.

A day after the shooting, a boulder next to Westfield High became a makeshift shrine of plastic flowers and candles for Ms. Samaha.

Scrawled across the boulder, written in black marker, were the words, "Heaven gained an amazing angel."

Freshman a talented dancer, actress
USAToday Profile

Reema Samaha, 18, a freshman, loved theater and dance. She would let loose on Wednesday salsa nights at a local club, recalls an acquaintance, Jose Fuentes, 21, a senior.

Samaha was a member of Virginia Tech's Contemporary Dance Ensemble.

"She was a beautiful dancer and well-loved by all of us," the student group says in a statement. "She was gorgeous, unique, talented and irreplaceable."

While at Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., she appeared in numerous productions, including Arsenic and Old Lace, in which she played Martha Brewster.

In 2005, she won a critics' choice award for her performance in the musical Fiddler on the Roof. She won her high school's drama scholarship.

Another victim, Erin Peterson, and the gunman had also attended Westfield High.

Flags flew at half-staff at Westfield on Tuesday, and counselors were there to talk to students. Heavy security kept reporters away from teachers and students.

A school employee showed the yearbook pictures of the two young women.

Shea Smith, 17, a junior, says school officials announced the deaths over the public address system. "It's kind of depressing," Smith says.

Teachers had given out class assignments related to the shooting, he says, including asking students to discuss what might have happened if there had been more gun controls.

Washington Post Profile:

Even before Reema Samaha could study theater at Westfield High School and later Virginia Tech, she gravitated toward the stage. Only it was the basement of her Centreville home, on a makeshift set she and other neighborhood children pieced together.

Somewhere on an old VHS tape, those moments are captured: a not-yet-teenage Samaha, dressed up and doing what she loved, said Danielle Ragole, a childhood friend who grew up in the same neighborhood as Samaha.

"There's just a presence about her that nobody is going to forget," said Ragole, 23.

Ragole was one of several people watching over the family's home yesterday as they remained in Blacksburg.

Samaha, who would have turned 19 in June, graduated from Westfield High School. Erin Peterson, who was also shot in the attacks, graduated the same year. Three years before them, the shooter graduated from there.

In the school's main office yesterday, the phones rang constantly. Calls from the media came from across the nation and as far as London and South Korea. Near the front desk, a television remained tuned to news about the shooting. A teenage girl sat in a love seat in front of it, clutching a tissue and crying softly.

At the school, Samaha's friends remembered her the best way they knew how: by watching videotapes of past productions of the high school theater group.

"She did a belly-dancing act in last year's talent show," said Corey Vierregger, 16, an 11th-grader who shimmied to portray Samaha's verve as he remembered his friend.

Samaha distinguished herself in drama at the school as well as on the school's dance team. Among her distinctions her senior year was a $5,000 theater scholarship.

"Whoever she came across, she always had the most genuine smile," said Daniel Jeong, 19, a sophomore at the University of Illinois who knew Samaha at Westfield.

Contrary to rumors that Samaha and (the gunman) were dating, family friends said the two did not know each other. It was purely a coincidence that they went to the same school and that they lived blocks from each other in Centreville, they said.

"It was just a random act," family friend Meredith Sanders said as she left the family's home yesterday.

"She doesn't deserve this," Sanders said. "None of them deserve this."

-- Theresa Vargas and Amy Gardner, The Washington Post

Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:

Reema Samaha, 18, danced through life. She had trained in ballet since elementary school and was a member of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble at Virginia Tech.

Recently, she had taken up belly dancing, a nod to her Lebanese roots. And the day before she was killed, Ms. Samaha performed in a street fair in Blacksburg.

But more than that, Ms. Samaha carried herself like a dancer: light, vibrant, and energetic.

“Reema had the most fantastic aura,” says Lauren B. Walters, Ms. Samaha’s longtime friend and a student at Clemson University. “You couldn’t help but want to be around her. ... She lit up a room when she walked in.”

Ms. Samaha, from Centreville, Va., was a freshman at Virginia Tech. She and another victim of the shootings, Erin Peterson, graduated in 2006 from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., the same high school that the gunman had graduated from three years earlier.

In 2005, while at Westfield High, Ms. Samaha won an award for her work in Fiddler on the Roof. The next year, she was a dance captain for a production of Oklahoma! and played an eccentric woman in Arsenic and Old Lace.

“She always wanted to be unique. Always wanted to be different. Always had a unique flair,” Ms. Samaha’s brother, Omar, said in an interview with CBS News.

Elyse Ashburn

A Daughter's Untimely Requiem
Parents Remember a Vibrant Girl as Va. Tech Funerals Begin

The Washington Post (Sunday, April 22, 2007; A01)

The parents, Joe and Mona Samaha, were due at the funeral home later in the morning to view their daughter Reema -- to see her body for the first time since the madness at Virginia Tech. They sat in their living room early yesterday, flowers and sympathy cards around them, and looked ahead to those private moments, their daughter clothed for burial in a white satin dress her mother picked out.

"I really want to touch her hair," Mona said. She leaned closer to her husband on the sofa, her legs crossed, and stared at her lap. She spoke just above a whisper. "I want to touch her fingers. She has such little fingers. From the first day it happened, I wanted to do that. And her hair. I might take a little piece of her hair."

Joe breathed deep and said, "I want to hold her, and I want to kiss her."

She is 18 forever, Reema Samaha, a freshman, this smiling beauty in a portrait photo on the living-room table in a brick colonial in Centreville -- brown eyes and black hair and a lifetime in front of her until six days ago, when the shooting started in Norris Hall. Thirty-two dead in the massacre, students mostly, plus the gunman. And now comes the aftermath, the grief and farewells.

Now come the funerals and memorials. At least five this weekend. It was Minal Panchal's turn yesterday. More than 100 mourners filled a chapel at Donaldson Funeral Home in Odenton to say goodbye to the 26-year-old architecture student, also slain in Norris.

"It is now time to send our sweet Minu to a better place," a family spokesman said as the memorial service came to an end. Panchal lay in a wooden coffin with colorful flowers draped over her chest. On her face, a peaceful smile.

Reema Samaha's funeral is tomorrow. She wanted to be an urban planner. She wanted to design green spaces for cities. Instead, in the white satin dress, she'll go from the Murphy Funeral Home in Falls Church to Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in McLean for a service, then back to Falls Church, to National Memorial Park.

Then, in anguish shared by loved ones of all the victims of April 16, her parents will return home from the cemetery, to that photo in the living room and the unending pain that (the gunman) left in his wake.

This is what (the gunman) wrought: "Just very sad in knowing that I'm not going to be able to see her anymore," said Mona Samaha, 49, a Lebanese-born elementary school teacher in Herndon. "To really listen to her. Her asking me my advice. As independent as she was, she always came back to me for the last decision making. I'm not going to be able to play with her hair. Give her water if she's thirsty outside in the sun."

Joe Samaha, 51, a real estate broker of Lebanese descent, said he and his wife wanted to talk about their slain daughter "so people will understand who Reema was. Her ambitions, her goals. What she meant to us." She loved to entertain, loved contemporary dance. "As a performer," her father said, "she wanted to be on stage. And I want the world to be her stage now. I want the world to see her. As a last wish."

So as the clock ticked, as the couple waited for that appointment at the funeral home and then a memorial service for Reema in the afternoon -- as the doorbell chimed, as visitors kept arriving, as the telephone kept bleating and hushed relatives moved about the house, tending to this, tending to that -- Joe and Mona Samaha sat close on the sofa.

And here came their memories.

"She enjoyed being different," her father said. "Whether it be dance or theater or character acting, her mind worked differently. . . . She was unique in that way. She saw things in a different perspective, which we don't. And she could translate that into something that was beautiful, in a performance. It was innate, since she was probably 2 years old, when she started to dance. She had a different rhythm in her head."

She was born June 23, 1988, the youngest of the couple's three children. Her brother, Omar, is 23; her sister, Randa, 21.

"She was not always neat," her mother said. "But when she was growing up, she would not want to do finger painting, because it was messy. . . . Yes, she always had to be the pretty girl. She was dainty. Little hands, little fingers. Finger painting was not her thing. . . . She always wanted to play dress up. When she was 2 or 3, she took all of her grandmother's shoes . . . She was in love with shoes.

"And she would want to wear high heels," Mona said. "But of course nobody can wear high heels at 3 and go up and down the stairs. . . . But she was in the blue and shiny high heels, going up and down the stairs all the time."

And that lovely face in the portrait photo. Later yesterday, speaking to 800 people at the memorial service at a Chantilly church, Joe would say this about her smile: "It was the bait, the lure -- tempting you. And then, when she would capture your friendship and love, like a carpenter bee, she would drill a very clean hole into your heart."

In the living room, her mother said: "I noticed when she was a baby, she would cry, but as soon as I put her in the crib, she would stop." There was a white satin comforter in the crib that pacified little Reema. "One time, when I pulled her out, she carried it with her. And I noticed that it meant something to her. When I took it out of her hand, she was not happy. So that was something very special that she carried with her wherever she goes."

Even to Virginia Tech, to her dorm room in Slusher Wing. "We've got it now," Mona said of the comforter. Yesterday, she took it to the funeral home, to put with Reema.

Other things Reema liked: Lebanese salad and funny TV shows, Harry Potter books and MAC cosmetics. Red lipstick, especially. She liked the color red.

She graduated from Westfield High School last spring, the same school from which (the gunman) graduated in 2003. "On the night of her prom, she looked so beautiful, with her wavy hair all to the side," her mother said. "Like Princess Jasmine. Fiery red dress. Big earrings. And everybody came to tell me she looked like Princess Jasmine, right from 'Aladdin.' "

The University of Virginia wait-listed her, and that was a disappointment. "She was sad that she couldn't go to U-Va., where her friends and cousin and sister are," Mona said. "So she went to Virginia Tech, because it is the school that accepted her, one of the best schools. But she was a little lost there."

"She was homesick at first," her father said.

"Very homesick," her mother said. "In her words in the e-mails, there was a lot of sadness. And then I asked her if she cries, and she said, 'Well, duh !' But she wouldn't want to talk about it. But I could tell. Every weekend there was a message. Saturday and Sunday."

In their hearts, her parents wanted her home, wanted to gather her up in their arms, but they resisted, hoping she would tough it out -- which she did. "This semester, her second, was a semester of discovery," Joe said. Reema had always been attuned to her heritage, and she joined a dance troupe of Middle Eastern students at Virginia Tech. She also performed with the school's Contemporary Dance Ensemble. She made many friends.

And decided on a major: urban planning.

Her mother and father visited her last weekend, to watch her dance. And they had planned another trip this weekend.

"Last Sunday, after all the performances, she kept repeating, 'I'm so happy you came, Mommy! I'm so happy you came!' And that was the last sentence she said to me, right as we were leaving. And she hugged me. We left at 6. And when we got home, about 10, her sister had to talk to her for something, so they talked on the phone.

"Reema told her, 'I'm already feeling lonely, but I shouldn't, because they just left me, and I'll see them again next week.' "

Then, in the morning came the madness, and the end of everything.

After a while, Joe got up from the sofa, and his wife rose with him, both freighted with sorrow, a cargo of grief.

They stood there, and they knew it was time to leave.

Time to see Reema.

"We always thought she was like a butterfly, because she was so light," her mother said. "Like a flower. If I had to put her in small words: A butterfly. A star. A flower that was picked too soon."

By Paul Duggan

Virginia Tech Magazine Profile (5/07)

Reema Joseph Samaha was the youngest of three children born to Joseph and Mona Samaha of Centreville, Va. She lived in Centreville for her entire life, but she truly was a citizen of the world. She embraced her Lebanese heritage, was an active member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, traveled to the Middle East, and studied the languages and cultures of that part of the world. At Virginia Tech, she intended to minor in French and international studies.

Family came first for Reema. She had an exceptionally warm and close relationship with her parents and adored her older brother, Omar, who preceded her to Virginia Tech. Sister Randa, a junior at the University of Virginia, was her counterpart. They shared friends, traveled together, and visited one another at their respective schools. Reema also loved spending time with her beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Friendships were important to Reema. She maintained lifelong friendships with a diverse group of people who were drawn to her openness, cheerfulness, creativity, and wit. During her childhood, Reema particularly enjoyed performing in comical video productions with her many neighborhood friends. She shared her family’s passion for soccer and was named to three youth soccer all-star teams. She also had begun studying Tae Kwon Do.

As Reema matured, she pursued her passions for dance and theater. She performed on the Westfield High School dance team; she was a Cappies critics’ choice as the featured dancer in Westfield’s award-winning production of “Fiddler on the Roof”; and she belly-danced her way to victory in the school’s talent show. Reema was a member of Westfield’s Improvisation Group, earned rave reviews for her hilarious performance as the lead in Westfield’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and appeared in the school’s production of “Oklahoma.” At Virginia Tech, she was a member of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, the Hill and Veil Middle Eastern Dance Group, and the Cedars of Lebanon Club.

Reema blended her joy of life with seriousness of mind. She graduated summa cum laude from Westfield, where she was a member of the National, French, and Science honor societies and a Thespian. Reema earned a 4.0 GPA at Virginia Tech and intended to major in urban planning. Reema’s family is establishing a perpetual fund in her name to support students demonstrating outstanding abilities in dance or theater, excellent academic performance, and love of people and life.

Memorial Scholarship

Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Reema Samaha 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.