April 16, 2007 began as an ordinary day for four Virginia Tech students who shared their experiences with FOXNews.com. Here are their first person accounts of the events surrounding the shooting and massacre of fellow students that took place on their campus:
First semester senior
Major: Civil Engineering
Hometown: Leesburg, Virginia
Matt lives in an off-campus apartment about two blocks from campus. He was on his way to the gym before class. When he arrived at the really big parking lot he usually uses, people kept talking to him. Then “suddenly I get next to McBride — which is right next to Norris — [where shootings took place] and I see a police SUV, a police cruiser, and a guy is running from the north area. His shirt is blood soaked. The police cruiser screams to a halt. The officer runs to the guy, grabs him and screams off.”
Matt then made a call to the main switchboard at the school “because I have no idea what’s going on.” The operator tells him, “all we can say at this point is that you should proceed to your classes cautiously.”
“I texted my roommate. So many of our friends saw somebody that was shot. One of our friends was barricaded in a classroom. The gunman was shooting down the hall and they were barricaded in their rooms. He unloaded a whole clip into the door and was trying to demolish the door. Then he reloaded a whole clip and shot again and then he continued down the hall. – This was in Norris. One of my good girlfriends, her sorority “little sister” got shot in the back. A friend was in a room that the shooter made it into. He lined everybody up execution style. Our friend fell down and kind of played possum. He’s the only one that made it out. — That’s what he’s saying.
Tomorrow, one of my roommates, who was sleeping today, would have been in the room [where the shootings occurred]. A lot of things have happened to us. One of my friends got searched and thrown in a building. We’ve had two bomb threats in the past week and a half. You never really know what’s true. You hear, “Oh, school’s out. — And they NEVER cancel school here even with the snow. — And then you hear someone got shot and then you actually see someone get shot…”
Matt’s parents were, understandably, very upset by news of the school shooting. “My mom and dad called me. She was just frantic. I couldn’t really have a conversation with her. She automatically thought I was shot.
One of Matt’s roommates is leaving the campus. He told us, “I don’t know if they’re going to leave the school for good or just for now.”
In the chilling aftermath of today’s events, what’s at the top of Matt’s mind? “The main thing I’ve been thinking about is would I have tried to do something to stop the guy? Would I have tried to tackle the guy when he wasn’t looking?”
Major: International Studies
I woke up today to my cell phone ringing nonstop. I flipped it open and the first thing that popped up was a text message from my younger brother, a student here at Virginia Tech, that said: ”School Shooter. Stay inside away from the windows.” I immediately became alert and checked my e-mail to find numerous messages from the University saying that a school shooter was loose and everyone was to remain indoors. I could hear police sirens wailing from my
window at my off campus apartment and the loudspeaker from a van driving through town announcing an emergency and instructing everyone to remain indoors.
I contacted one of my roommates, who was at school, and she told me that while in class she had been taken to an underground location and confined to a room due to the shootings. She could hear gunshots being fired from Norris Hall, the next building over, where the massacre was taking place. My friends and I watched in horror as the massacre appeared all over the news channels.
We initially thought that this was another William Morva day, the day last September when a killer was loose on campus. I was shocked then to realize that the death toll had suddenly risen from 1 person dead to 20 and then finally to 32.
Images were flashing on screen of pictures of buildings on campus, the same buildings where my classes for the day were supposed to be held. Since then, everyone has just been waiting for more to develop and keeping contact with friends and family.
Every once in awhile, one of my roommates will get a phone call from a friend saying that someone they know had been shot in the chest or the back.
Now everyone is just waiting nervously for names of the students who were involved to be released and hoping that it isn’t a close friend.
As a graduating International Studies major here at Virginia Tech, I only have three more weeks of school and I never thought something like this would happen here.
Major: Business and Finance
Home State: Maryland
Genanasunbaran lives off campus with friends in an apartment about a mile from the school.
"I was across the road from West Ambler Johnston Hall. While I was going there, I heard that there was a shooting. The campus sent out an e-mail. We weren’t sure if it was on campus or not. We were told the campus was closed. It was kind of like a mass exodus almost. I parked right outside the gym. That’s when one of the people who worked at the gym told me [what had happened]. – The West AJ shots had already occurred.
"After I came back home I turned on the news. After about 20 minutes they said there had been more gunshots Norris Hall. I was kind of scared. And for the other people too. I know plenty of people in Engineering classes. I’ve talked to almost everybody and most of them are okay. There’s a few people I haven’t gotten in touch with. One of my friends' roommates was actually shot but he’s doing fine.
Has this incident altered Genanasunbaran’s sense of safety at Virginia Tech?
“As much as this happened here and it’s scary, I think this could happen anywhere. I can understand why people feel afraid. I’ve always felt safe at this university. They can do it anywhere and any place and at any time and you can’t stop it. It’s not like I’m going to transfer out of this college. I still feel safe at Virginia Tech.”
Major: Business management and real estate
Hometown: Woodbridge, Virginia
Marcelino lives off campus in an apartment with friends. He had a class at 10 o’clock this morning. He was waking up when a friend called about a shooting in the dorms.
“I immediately turned on the TV. That’s when I learned that there was a shooting at an academic building. Two of my roommates were on campus but made it home safely. One was on his way to Ambler Johnston. Another was stuck in another academic building called Torgeson. He made it out before the lockdown.
What did he think of the news?
"I can’t even explain it. I saw one student dead. I thought ‘it’s an isolated event’ at that time. Then, in the next hour it jumped from one to 20 people. There’s no way to prepare yourself for something like that.”
How does he feel about his safety now?
“I kind of feel a little safer knowing that the shooter is deceased. I don’t know if it’s set in, that it’s safe to go out. I’m still in complete and utter shock. Now, I’m more worried about the safety of those people in the hospital. Engineering is a big portion of the school. Almost everybody knows someone who’s affected by the shooting.
And what about his family?
“It’s been a struggle talking to my parents. The phones were so busy. I’ve gotten a hold of my parents and my brother’s in school and my sister's away at school.”
Hometown: Williamsburg, VA
Meghan preferred to conduct the interview via e-mail, because she wanted to keep her phone line open in case a family member or friend called with any important information.
Around 9:50 AM, Meghan found out the school was on lockdown. “I heard about everything through phone calls from concerned friends and also through the news on TV. I stayed inside since I was on lockdown and my reactions were still in shock. These events did not seem real until later in the afternoon when I was home.”
What is the mood like around campus?
“The mood is very confused and sad. The early afternoon was spent by most students trying to get in touch with their family and friends to make sure everyone was okay and safe.”
What does she think the school could have done differently to help prevent this?
“I think the school took the proper actions as they evaluated the situation. It was an unfortunate event and I wish there was something that could have prevented this however I can not imagine VT police foreseeing these events and being able to prevent it.”
Before the shootings, what was the general feeling on campus?
“The general feeling on campus is always a safe one. Most students, that I know, do not fear anything on a regular day. Everyone needs to take basic precautions: locking their doors, not walking alone at night, keeping in touch with people to let them know where you are, however a day like today is unfortunate but does not reflect the day to day occurrences on VT's campus.”
FOXNews.com's Kevin McCarthy contributed to this report.