Community Still Reels from Va. Tech Shootings

The mood on campus and in Blacksburg, Va., is subdued as residents attempt to reconcile Monday's deadly attacks at Virginia Tech.

We hear from an emergency room doctor who says that victims' multiple gunshot wounds lead him to characterize a shooter who "aimed with intent to kill."

We also hear from students who say the trauma of what happened is beginning to sink in fully. They say Virginia Tech is a close community that's grown closer. And we hear from local clergy, who are trying to figure out the best ways they can help - both now, and in the weeks to come.

Shootings Leave VT Community Seeking Solace

Jessica Hill takes part in a vigil for the victims of the mass killing at Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007, in Blacksburg, Va. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

Watch a Slideshow on the Shootings and their Aftermath
itoggle caption Win McNamee/Getty Images

The shootings that claimed the lives of 33 people Monday at Virginia Tech left students searching for ways to understand, and come to terms with, the tragedy.

The university held a memorial service Tuesday afternoon in an on-campus basketball arena. Students and other members of the school community packed the building, listening to addresses by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and President Bush.

"Laura and I have come to Blacksburg today with hearts full of sorrow," President Bush told the assembly. "This is a day of mourning for the Virginia Tech community and it is a day of sadness for our entire nation."

Smaller gatherings across the campus were expected to continue into the night, according to Aydin Akyurtlu, a junior at Virginia Tech and news director at the student-run radio station, WUVT.

"People are really getting together as a community to deal with this," Akyurtlu said. "There are numerous candlelight vigils going on in the evening [Tuesday], and on into the night."

The campus was filled with students wearing school colors in a spontaneous sign of solidarity Tuesday. The night before, many had already gathered together in places where they could share their emotions.

Shocked, students quickly reached out to each other Monday by phone and Internet, gathering together to talk, pray and search for information on victims of the massacre.

A few blocks from campus, at Saint Mary's Catholic Church, people gathered Monday for a special prayer service led by parishioner Laurie McDaniel.

She led the group in prayer, "May Jesus, the divine physician, heal the wounds of fear, uncertainty, anxiety and distress; and may peace soon come upon this place again."

Students wearing burgundy Virginia Tech sweatshirts wept and hugged each other after the service. Parishioner Mike Martin says the entire community of Blacksburg is grieving.

"In one sense because we are all a part of Virginia Tech, we all have lost. All of us have lost," Martin said.

The New Life Christian Fellowship, a campus ministry, held a prayer vigil Monday night that was attended by about 200 students.

Pastor Matt Rogers said that students attending the gathering were looking more for comfort than for answers about the shooting. He counseled them to respond with love.

"It won't help if we respond from bitterness, or hate, or anger, as understandable as those feelings may be," Rogers said. "We really need to try to respond from a heart of love, and just serve the people who are hurting the most right now."

Like many students, junior Christopher Bowns turned first to the Internet to connect with the Virginia Tech community, and beyond.

"I'm an information junkie, so knowing as much as I can about this is really the best way for me to make sense of all of it, you know make sense of what happened," Bowns said.

Most in the student body of 26,000 did not directly encounter Monday's violent scenes. Some displayed a lack of emotion, having already gone through a shooting scare once before this year.

"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. It was not quite to this degree, but it was similar," student D.J. Kurikidas said, explaining the relative calm seen among many students.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.