Posted at 10:14 a.m., Monday, April 16, 2007
Students share grief, get news of shooting from TV
By Joe Holley
She, like many other students locked down in their rooms in Blacksburg, spent their morning receiving e-mails, contacting loved ones to let them know she was safe and watching the news about their own campus on national television. They traded rumors and bad news and eventually shared their grief.
"I have a few friends on the fourth floor," Bensley said. "They were all evacuated, and they weren't allowed to go back there."
Dustin Lynch, 19, sophomore, from Churchville, Md., was out on Drill Field at the time of the shootings, raising money for philanthropy with fellow fraternity brothers from Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He saw police officers carrying unresponsive students out of Norris Hall, a classroom building where most of the shootings took place. He also saw many students evacuated from the building.
"I had seen a bunch of cop cars and heard a lot of sirens," he said. "They were already booking it around Drill Field. I saw them all converge on this one building. The next thing I know, I see different spurts, it looked like different classrooms had gotten out. Hundreds of kids were running out with their hands up showing that they were harmless. There was a small wall that they had to jump over in the grass, and everybody was just running frantically in different groups. After most of the groups got out, I saw a lot of ambulances, probably three or four ambulances, go up as close to the buildings as they could."
Lynch, who said he saw police officers carrying students out, also said he and his fraternity brothers were still trying to reach friends they knew were in engineering classes at Norris Hall at the time of the shootings. "We know one brother was in the building. We cannot reach him and we're worried about him."
Zachary Candler, 20, a junior engineering major, was taking a compressible aerodynamics class in the Randolph building, which is next door to Norris. Candler said around 9:40 a.m. police converged on the building ordering the students not to leave and to get away from the windows.
"We didn't know the seriousness of what was going on at first until they told us the building was locked down indefinitely," Candler said.
He said he was worried about one of his classmates who was in the Norris building. He heard the classmate had escaped by jumping out of a window and had broken his leg.
Amie Steele, editor-in-chief of the Virginia Tech student newspaper, Collegiate Times, said that the newspaper's campus office was evacuated Monday morning as a precaution and the student journalists were working from an off-campus site.
She said that all entry points to the university were closed down by state police and that students and staff who were trying to leave the campus had a long wait. "There is a mile-long line of cars of people trying to leave the campus," Steele said.
The newspaper reported on its Web site that law enforcement officials said they were unable to use helicopters for medical evacuations because of the high winds generated by a storm that had hit most of the East Coast.
Justin May, 19, a Silver Spring, Md., freshman, was in a calculus class Monday morning in a building next to McBride Hall and near a construction site. "We heard several bangs in a row. We thought it might be jackhammers," he said.
May's class was in lockdown for about 20 minutes before he and his fellow students were instructed to run back to their dormitories. His dormitory, Montieth Hall, was in a lockdown; students were told to lock all dorm doors on the outside, close and lock windows and to close the blinds.
He said they could hear ambulance and police sirens. When he looked out a window, he saw a security officer wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with a pistol. "This is an emergency, stay indoors," the officer announced over a megaphone. The sound of sirens was constant.
"It hasn't even registered to us," May said. "This is so much worse than Columbine. We don't even know what to think of it."
Staff writers Amy Gardner, Jackie Spinner, Timothy Dwyer, Susan Levine, Keith Alexander, Stephen Fehr and Monica Norton contributed to this report.