Coast Family Loses Niece In Virginia Tech Shooting

Eight hundred miles away, her aunts and uncles in Biloxi and Ocean Springs watched the horror on TV. They prayed for a phone call or a text message from their niece. But the only call they got was the one from Leslie's parents, confirming her death. Tears fell from Kathy Fordemwalt's face when she began describing her fondest memory of her neice Leslie Sherman.

"I think when I close my eyes, I can see her face," Fordemwalt said through those tears.

Her niece was just 20 years old. Yet she dedicated her life to make others smile.

"She always just felt she had to be doing things for people, even if she didn't even know them," remembered Fordemwalt.

Leslie was a sophomore history major at Virginia Tech. Her Uncle John Sherman remembers hearing stories about how the past became so important to his niece's future.

"You know she just loved history," he said. "She loved history, and now, she's part of it."

Leslie was one of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre. Days later, on memorial websites set up after the April 16 shooting tragedy, friends called Leslie an amazing person. Others noted her contagious smile. They marveled at her love for running, and foreign languages.

Her parents live in Virginia. Two aunts, two uncles and her Grandma Meryl live in south Mississippi. A family wedding was the last time they saw Leslie.

"She was cheerful. She was always doing things for people. She was very bright," Uncle John said.

On Monday, Leslie was in French class. Like 30 others inside Norris Hall on the Virginia Tech campus, she was in the wrong place at worst possible time. Her parents in Virginia and her relatives in Mississippi waited hours, hoping to get a phone call or a text message from Leslie. Instead, they got a visit from a police officer. He told them what they feared. Leslie was one of the 33 killed at Virginia Tech.

"I don't think she will be just a number. She's unique. She's special," said Aunt Kathy.

Leslie was the kind of girl who always gave you a pat on the back. She was the kind of woman who donated her time and her energy to make others happy. She donated hair to Locks of Love. She gave blood to the Red Cross. Leslie Sherman made her Mississippi family very proud.

"She was a truly remarkable young lady," Fordemwalt said. "More talented than most people see in their lifetime. A lot of love and a lot of compassion for just anybody. Even if she doesn't know them, that doesn't matter. She still wants to be there helping them."

Leslie worked part time at a campus cafeteria to pay for a summer trip to Russia. In one of the online tributes to her, a friend who knew about the trip wrote, "I wish we could all see you again. We miss you dearly."

For her family, the pain of her death is eased just a bit by the pride they have for a 20 year old who did so much with her life.

"She just wanted to help people," said Aunt Kathy, as a smile wiped away her tears.