Posted by: Jennifer | April 17, 2007

a record no one wanted to break

Yesterday’s shooting spree at Virginia Tech is now the deadliest school shooting in history, as well as being the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

A gunman massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history Monday, cutting down his victims in two attacks two hours apart before the university could grasp what was happening and warn students.

The bloodbath ended with the gunman committing suicide, bringing the death toll to 33 and stamping the campus in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains with unspeakable tragedy, perhaps forever.

[…]”Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions,” Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said. “The university is shocked and indeed horrified.”

But he was also faced with difficult questions about the university’s handling of the emergency and whether it did enough to warn students and protect them after the first burst of gunfire. Some students bitterly complained they got no warning from the university until an e-mail that arrived more than two hours after the first shots rang out.

Wielding two handguns and carrying multiple clips of ammunition, the killer opened fire about 7:15 a.m. on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston, a high-rise coed dormitory, then stormed Norris Hall, a classroom building a half-mile away on the other side of the 2,600-acre campus. Some of the doors at Norris Hall were found chained from the inside, apparently by the gunman.

Two people died in a dorm room, and 31 others were killed in Norris Hall, including the gunman, who put a bullet in his head. At least 15 people were hurt, some seriously. Students jumped from windows in panic.

[…]Trey Perkins, who was sitting in a German class in Norris Hall, told The Washington Post that the gunman barged into the room at about 9:50 a.m. and opened fire for about a minute and a half, squeezing off about 30 shots.

The gunman first shot the professor in the head and then fired on the students, Perkins said. The gunman was about 19 years old and had a “very serious but very calm look on his face,” he said.

“Everyone hit the floor at that moment,” said Perkins, 20, of Yorktown, Va., a sophomore studying mechanical engineering. “And the shots seemed like it lasted forever.”

Erin Sheehan, who was also in the German class, told the student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, that she was one of only four of about two dozen people in the class to walk out of the room. The rest were dead or wounded, she said.

She said the gunman “was just a normal-looking kid, Asian, but he had on a Boy Scout-type outfit. He wore a tan button-up vest, and this black vest, maybe it was for ammo or something.”

Students said that there were no public-address announcements after the first shots. Many said they learned of the first shooting in an e-mail that arrived shortly before the gunman struck again.

“I think the university has blood on their hands because of their lack of action after the first incident,” said Billy Bason, 18, who lives on the seventh floor of the dorm.

I can understand the need to cast blame when something like this happens, and the university itself is going to be the easiest target. There’s absolutely no way, though, that they could have seen this coming. Yes, two people died in the dorms first thing in the morning, but any police officer looking at that particular situation could not have immediately jumped to the conclusion that there must be a crazed gunman on the loose in the campus. It would have been seen as an isolated incident, some sort of domestic dispute or perhaps a robbery. Yes, hindsight is twenty-twenty, but let’s focus the blame where it truly belongs — on the shoulders of a nineteen-year-old who picked up a gun on his way to school yesterday morning.

If anyone is reading this who knows someone who was killed or injured in yesterday’s attack, my deepest sympathies go out to you and to their families.

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