The lives of people across the nation were forever changed Monday morning as a result of the worst school massacre in United States history costing the lives of 33 students and faculty and injuring more than 20 others.
“Our hearts go out to our colleges at Virginia Tech, particularly to the students and their families and the faculty and staff affected by this tragedy,” Steve Morgan, University of La Verne president, said.
The shootings began Monday morning at 7:15 a.m. at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., in the West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory.
An argument between the gunman, 23-year-old senior English major Seung-Hui Cho and a female student resulted in gunfire and the death of the young woman and a male student who had responded to the commotion.
At around 9:30 a.m. Virginia Tech. notified the students, faculty and staff about the incident via e-mail.
Everyone was urged to be cautious and to notify the police of any suspicious activities, but the warning had come too late.
At 9:45 a.m. gunfire erupted in Norris Hall, where classroom doors were chained shut by Cho from the inside as he embarked on his killing spree.
Thirty-two students and faculty had been murdered by the time the gunman took his own life.
School campuses all over the country are now looking at this tragedy and doing their best to lean from it.
The safety of students, faculty and administrators is a priority on all school campuses but it is almost impossible to be prepared for such a horrific situation.
“It causes schools to pause and take a look at their procedures and policies,” said Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs.
The University of La Verne does have protocol and procedures for emergencies but, “We would make judgement calls as situations arise,” Rahmani added.
In a similar situation, “We would notify La Verne police dispatch officers immediately and assist them as much as possible,” Michael Nunez, director of campus safety and transportation said.
“The best thing to do is to lock yourself in your room, notify campus safety immediately, call 911 and stay away from the windows,” Nunez added.
“After this, I don’t think any campus is safe enough,” Andrea Garcia, a junior criminology major at ULV, said.
Cho had died with the words “Ismail Ax” in red ink on one of his arms but the meaning behind this has yet to be discovered.
Two handguns, a 9mm and a .22 caliber were found in the building along with Cho’s backpack.
“It’s scary that people are able to obtain weapons to do that kind of harm,” Garcia said.
A note was also found in Cho’s dorm in which he expressed anger towards “rich kids,” “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans” on the Virginia Tech campus.
The note was several pages long explaining his actions and stating that, “You caused me to do this.”
On Wednesday, NBC Studios in New York received a package from Cho that contained a DVD full of homemade video messages from Cho, pictures showing Cho brandishing a pair of handguns and other weapons, and page after page of typewritten ranting and vitriol.
Cho apparently mailed the package in the time between the two residence hall killings and his raid on Norris Hall.
Cho was an outcast at Virginia Tech, where even his roommate knew very little about him.
Those who were familiar with the gunman described him as very quiet but recall disturbing screenplays full of violence that Cho had written in class.
His writings were so morbid that Cho had been referred to a school counselor.
Students in Cho’s classes often wondered if he was capable of reenacting his twisted plays and sometimes joked that they were just waiting for him to snap, but no one is joking now.
Cho’s writings and the possibility of a depression disorder are now being seen as warning signs that should have been taken more seriously.
“People can pretend they know why these things happen,” Kimberly Landis a ULV junior criminal psychology major said. “But they never really do.”
On Tuesday, the University of La Verne held a prayer service for Virginia Tech students, family and friends in light of the tragic shootings.
Madison Steff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.