Virginia Tech tragedy continues to hit home


Virginia Tech tragedy continues to hit home


By Messenger Post and wire reports
Posted: Apr 18, 01:00 PM EDT

On a campus proud of its unity, the gunman's anger and detachment alarmed those around him.

While parents of a 2004 Irondequoit High School graduate learned their son escaped harm in the Virginia Tech massacre Monday, another relative of a Virginia Tech student is mourning the death of her niece.

Virginia Tech students and supporters lifted thousands of candles to a sapphire sky Tuesday to remember the 32 people killed by a campus gunman. The vigil testified to the unity on which the mountain campus prides itself. But in the hours after Cho Seung-Hui's rampage, it was obvious the close-knit school was a community of which he never felt a part.

The gunman, who turned his gun on himself after carrying out the worst shooting massacre in modern U.S. history, was a sullen loner who left a rambling note raging against women and rich kids. News reports said that Cho, a 23-year-old senior majoring in English, may have been taking medication for depression and that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic.

Professors and classmates were alarmed by his class writings — pages filled with twisted, violence-drenched writing.

In screenplays he wrote for a class last fall, characters throw hammers and attack with chainsaws, said a student who attended Virginia Tech last fall. In another, Cho concocted a tale of students who fantasize about stalking and killing a teacher who sexually molested them.

Despite the many warning signs that came to light in the bloody aftermath, police and university officials offered no clues as to exactly what set Cho off on the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Among those killed in the massacre at Virginia Tech was 19-year-old freshman Mary Read, who had multiple ties to the greater Rochester area. Read spent summers in the Finger Lakes region, visiting relatives who included her aunt, Mary Courtney. Courtney was interviewed Monday from her Palmyra home by NBC (channel 10), and a portion of that interview appeared this morning on NBC's "Today Show."

Courtney expressed grief for the loss of her niece and the others killed in the shooting. In a "Today Show" profile of Mary Read and other victims, Ms. Read was noted as a student who liked to make cupcakes for her friends. Ms. Read was especially close to Courtney, whom she was named after. Ms. Read called her aunt "Queen Mary," while Courtney called her niece "Princess Mary."

Meanwhile, an Irondequoit mother was on an unplanned road trip Tuesday to see her son, who is a junior at the university.

"I really can't function unless I have a live sighting," Deborah Nicholas said of her son, Josh.

"Nightmare, yes," she said of the events of this past Monday when a university student shot 33 at Virginia Tech, a large engineering university in Blacksburg, Va.

When the incident happened, Deb Nicholas and her husband, Stephen Nicholas, were on a business trip and couldn't get a news channel on their car radio. They were getting regular reports, via cellular phone, from a nephew who lives in Detroit, but the connections kept breaking up.

"It just got worse and worse," Deb Nicholas said.

It was a while before they heard from Josh, a 2004 graduate of Irondequoit High School who is an engineering student at Virginia Tech.

He told them he had been to one class and was on his way to hand in a paper for another of his classes when kids all around him started running, his mother said.

"He said he picked up the pace and scooted into a nearby building," Deb Nicholas said.

He has had classes in Norris Hall, the building where most of Monday's shootings took place.

Deb Nicholas said her son was finally able to get on a bus that took him back to his apartment in a complex about a mile from the campus.

Nicholas has a girlfriend, Genna, who is from elsewhere in Virginia. His mom said Genna has two sorority sisters who were wounded. She said she didn't know if Josh knew any of the victims.

"If he (Josh) wants to come home, I will bring him home," she said by cell phone from the road.

At least one other Irondequoit resident, Alice Hellyar, a 2006 graduate of Irondequoit High School, is also a current student at Virginia Tech. She was also reported safe but shaken after the shootings.

With classes canceled for the rest of the week, many students left town in a hurry, lugging pillows, sleeping bags and backpacks down the sidewalks.

On Tuesday night, thousands of Virginia Tech students, faculty and area residents poured into the center of campus to grieve together. Volunteers passed out thousands of candles in paper cups, donated from around the country. Then, as the flames flickered, speakers urged them to find solace in one another.

"We will move on from this. But it will take the strength of each other to do that," said Zenobia Hikes, vice president for student affairs. "We want the world to know we are Virginia Tech, we will recover, we will survive with your prayers."


Original Source: Rochester, NY - MPNnow
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Messenger Post (Rochester, NY)




Brent Jesiek


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5




Messenger Post (Rochester, NY), “Virginia Tech tragedy continues to hit home,” The April 16 Archive, accessed May 19, 2024,