Tragedy in Virginia

“A gunman rampaged across the campus of Virginia Tech University on Monday, killing at least 32 people and wounding two dozen more in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, officials said. In TV news reports, witnesses described the gunman as a young Asian man.”

A gunman rampaged across the campus of Virginia Tech University on Monday, killing at least 32 people and wounding two dozen more in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, officials said.

In TV news reports, witnesses described the gunman as a young Asian man.

The shootings, which took place Monday morning in two buildings on the Blacksburg, Va. campus, threw the university into turmoil and drew expressions of shock, outrage and sympathy from university and U.S. government officials.

The gunman was found dead on campus, bringing the death toll to 33, but officials said it was not yet known whether he was shot by police or had killed himself.

The massacre revived memories of other school killings, including the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in which 13 were killed by two students, who then committed suicide.

Our nation is shocked and saddened, President George W. Bush said in a televised address to the nation. Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning.

He said the impact of Monday’s shooting would be felt in every American classroom and every American community.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives held moments of silence after the shootings, bringing a temporary halt to the government’s business.

This is a tragedy of monumental proportions, Virginia Tech president Charles Steger told reporters at a news conference carried on cable news channel CNN. He called the shootings a senseless, incomprehensible heinous act.

Virginia Tech officials said the gunman had opened fire in two different buildings. The attacks apparently happened about two hours apart, according to early reports.

Steve Mehr, a Virginia Tech freshman, said he knew something was wrong before he heard about the shooting.

I was walking home from my 9 a.m. class and hearing sirens everywhere, he said. I had no idea what it was about, but people were running to their dorms and the buildings were locked down, so you had to have your key card to get in If that’s happening, you know something’s going on.

Mehr described the campus as being in a very hectic state.

He said he has a friend on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall, where the first shooting took place.

As he spoke by phone from his fifth-floor dorm room in Pritchard Hall, he looked out the window and described heavily armed police officers on the grounds.

At one point, he said he heard gunfire – a lot of gunfire – but he later said the officers appeared to be checking the area.

Brenden Hill of Newport News, Va., who graduated from Virginia Tech in December and still lives just off campus, was still waiting for more information on the shootings, which prompted university officials to lock down the campus.

The weather has been so bad out here that I don’t know if a lot of students were out in the first place, Hill said. The weird thing is that we’ve had some bomb threats the last couple of weeks, and everybody is a little frustrated with the Blacksburg Police Department. The campus police is usually pretty good about getting information out to us, but there’s very limited information being distributed on this thing today.

On Friday, a bomb threat on campus forced the cancellation of classes in three buildings, and earlier this month the Torgerson Hall dormitory was evacuated after a bomb threat.

Hill, a football player who still works out on campus while preparing for the NFL draft, said he was planning to go to the athletic complex – very close to West Amblin Johnston Hall – later in the day.

But everything is shut down right now, he said. I’m worried about some of my teammates over there. I hope they’re all OK.

Virginia Tech campus police say they received initial reports about shootings on campus at about 7:15 a.m. in a coed dormitory with about 900 students.

Later, shootings were reported at the site of the science and engineering school.

The university is about 240 miles from Washington, D.C., and has an enrollment of some 26,000 students.

Classes were canceled and plans were being made to do the same on Tuesday.