Virginia Tech shootings shake the country


Virginia Tech shootings shake the country


By Nicole Haley/Daily News staff
Tue Apr 17, 2007, 01:04 AM EDT

NO DATA - The news seemed surreal for anyone who turned on the television yesterday. Even anchors on the major news networks reported asking law enforcement officials to repeat themselves, unable to believe what they were being told.
But for Waltham native Marcus Ly, the shootings on Virginia Tech's campus were particularly difficult to comprehend.

"I called a lot of my friends in Blacksburg. They're all OK," said Ly, a Virginia Tech grad student. "But it's just a lot of confusion, they don't really know anything more than we do reading the headlines."

Speaking by phone yesterday from Minneapolis, Ly said he was in shock.

A gunman killed 32 people on the campus and then took his own life, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

A 1995 Waltham High School graduate, Ly finished a graduate school program in industrial and systems engineering at Virginia Tech last winter. He was a representative on the university's Board of Visitors and worked closely with the president and higher levels of administration.

"It's really the equivalent of something like this happening in Weston," said Ly, trying to describe the town of Blacksburg, home to the 2,600-acre Virginia Tech campus. Ly said Blacksburg was on of the safest communities he has ever lived in.

Around 7:15 a.m. yesterday, the first shot rang out in West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed dormitory. The gunfire resumed two hours later at Norris Hall, the engineering science and mechanics building, where most of the fatalities occurred, according to Associated Press reports.

"It's more shocking than Columbine," Ly said, referring to the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo. Two teenagers killed 12 students and one teacher and wounded 24 more before the shooters committed suicide.

Like many others watching the events unfold from home, Ly saw the video streamed on and shown repeatedly on television, recorded by a Virginia Tech student on his cell phone. The shaky camera work shows police approaching one building as gunshot after gunshot rings out in the background.

"I watched it and I knew exactly where it was," said Ly, who had walked that area on any given morning less than a year ago.

Newton resident Theodore Fritz also recognized the buildings photographers captured throughout the day.

"I'm certainly transfixed here," said Fritz, a 1961 Virginia Tech graduate who watched television reports throughout the day.

A Boston University professor, the killings affected Fritz both as a college educator and as a Virginia Tech alumnus.

"I think this probably could have happened anywhere," he said.

Former Boston College baseball coach Pete Hughes, who now coaches at Virginia Tech, returned home with his team from a game at Florida State University about 3 a.m. yesterday. Hughes was rousted from bed by the news and immediately began scrambling to track down his players.

One was "bunkered down" in the basement of Norris Hall and managed to escape, while three others fled the dorm, he said.

Senior Beth Goldberg of Newton said students in lockdown on campus were able to communicate with the outside world by computer.

"They seemed pretty calm," Goldberg said. "We didn't realize how bad it was at the time."

Ly, who today runs an IT consulting company in Minnesota, said Virginia Tech was really the last place he would expect to see such a slaughter. Ly, who has lived in Chicago and Washington, D.C., repeatedly referred to Blacksburg as a "middle of nowhere" location - a quiet, small town where nothing much happens.

"To all the Hokies out there, we're all very touched," Ly said, invoking the school's nickname.

Yesterday was not the first time some of Virginia Tech's 25,000 students evacuated classrooms amidst chaos. On Friday, the school canceled classes in three buildings because of a bomb threat, and students fled Torgersen Hall on April 2 after police received a written bomb threat, according to reports from WDBJ in Roanoke, Va., and The Roanoke Times.

Last August, the first day of classes was cut short as police searched out William Morva, a 24-year-old escaped convict who killed a security guard and sheriff's deputy at a hospital just two miles from the campus. Ly said he recognized Morva in news reports after the incident.

"He was sitting next to me every day in the local coffee shop," Ly recalled. "He would always mumble to himself."

"This is really bad news for the university," Ly said. "People are going to start transferring."

Original Source: The Daily News Tribune - Waltham, Ma.
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Elva Orozco




Elva Orozco


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Elva Orozco, “Virginia Tech shootings shake the country,” The April 16 Archive, accessed July 16, 2024,