The news sites are littered with accounts from students who witnessed the bustle around the shootings and efforts by security teams and police to keep students safe from the shooter. One student had a harrowing story about a near fatal encounter with the shooter:
Nicholas Macko, a student at the school, spoke to Ireland’s RTÉ News and described in great detail to newsreader Anne Doyle his experience at the center of the shootings. He told of how he had been attending a math class and heard gunshots in the corridor. He and the ten other people in the classroom barricaded themselves into the room, called 911 and waited for help to arrive as the gunman went on a murderous rampage around them. At one point Macko claimed the gunman even attempted to break down the door to their hiding place but, when unsuccessful, continued on his killing spree elsewhere. He alleged they spent twenty to twenty-five minutes waiting for the police to free them while listening to the sounds of their fellow students being gunned down around them.
There doesn’t seem to be much clarity on who the shooter was or whether the shooter was a student at Virginia Tech. What is clear is that these killings surpass the horrific shootings at Columbine in 1999 and the Texas in 1966. It is likely to spark new debate about gun control laws and shootings on campus. I just hope that this doesn’t lead to copycat killings or a rash of new shootings at schools and universities. It is just crazy that this sort of thing happens. We read about violence at schools and this sort of lunacy really brings it home.
The sad thing about some of these stories is that they often speak more about how alienated and detached teens and young adults can become. I really wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be a story about a guy who was marginalised or otherwise alienated and who finally snapped or even decided that this was a lot like some or other game he had been playing and wanted to see what the real thing was like compared to the game. Actually, maybe I will be surprised by a new level of inhuman brutality. Hope not.
Update: According to this story on the Boston Herald site, there may have been two shooters. The shootings themselves were about 2 hours apart and Virginia Tech is being criticised quite heavily for not spreading the news about the first shootings sooner and cancelling classes. It seems officials on campus thought the first shooting was an isolated incident and didn’t feel the need to say anything further. A couple hours later a gunman chained the doors to the gymnasium closed and started shooting, first at the professor and then at the class members. According to Associated Press (via Yahoo! News):
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.”
More recent reports indicate that the gunman who struck the gymnasium committed suicide. I am sure we will have more clarity on how many shooters there were once tests are conducted on the weapon/s recovered by federal authorities.