A Day of Chaos for Virginia Tech Students

Most of the 26,000 students at Virginia Tech were not directly affected by Monday's shooting. But the aftermath left many in a state of confusion — locked out of dorms and questioned by police.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Twenty-six thousand students attend Virginia Tech and even those who weren't directly affected by yesterday's deadly shooting faced a day full of confusion.

They coped in different ways, as NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

LARRY ABRAMSON: The sun is going down. The wind is punishing, and freshman student Clayton Shaw is getting tired. He's been locked out at his dorm all day, the same dorm where the shooting started early Monday morning. The school has sent him lots of e-mails telling him what not to do, like don't go on campus.

Mr. CLAYTON SHAW (Freshman, Virginia Tech): It just says to stay safe and stuff like that. Those are the e-mails I have, but I don't know how I'm supposed to - if I'm allowed back in my dorm. I'm not allowed on campus. I mean I'm not allowed to drive my car on campus, so I don't know where we're actually supposed to go at the moment.

ABRAMSON: Somehow Clayton didn't hear the shootings that occurred just a few floors below his. But once the campus was locked down, he was locked out. He and a few friends beg a cop to please let them return to their dorm.

Mr. SHAW: I haven't been allowed on campus all day. I've been out pretty much at a friend's house, and I can't - I mean, I tried early to get back on; they won't let me park anywhere, so I don't know where I can actually…

Unidentified Man: We're not from this area…

ABRAMSON: Clayton has no luck and has to wait another couple of hours till they can return home. He told me later, once he finally got home he was greeted by a series of investigators. They kept asking him and his friends where were they every single minute of that awful day.

At an on-campus cafeteria, B.J. Curikidas(ph) is hanging out with some friends. He describes what sounds like a terrifying day. He was at the student center when news of the shootings reached him. Suddenly SWAT teams were running around and an eerie voice ordered him to stay indoors.

Mr. B.J. CURITIDAS (Student, Virginia Tech): They had a huge, really, really loud intercom telling everybody to take shelter indoors and, you know, stay away from windows and don't go outside.

ABRAMSON: But Curikidas speaks of all of this with little emotion. He looks at me straight in the eye as he talks. Like many other students, he was surprisingly calm.

Mr. CURIKIDAS: At the beginning of the year, we had a shooting incident where everybody was told to stay put and that there's a man on the loose. Not quite to this degree, but it was similar.

ABRAMSON: That was just this past August, the start of the school year, when a prison inmate escaped and killed a guard and a police officer not far from here. That served as a kind of grim preparation for something much worse.

Larry Abramson, NPR News, outside Blacksburg, Virginia.

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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