Smithfield, Va., Suffers from VT Massacre

The small town of Smithfield, Va., has been hit hard by the tragedy of the Virginia Tech shooting. One of the dead is from the town, as is one of the wounded.

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Police in Blacksburg, Virginia, have requested the cell phone records of Seung-hui Cho to find out if he talked to anyone, and perhaps, revealed his plans before his shooting spree Monday at Virginia Tech. Loved ones have been holding memorial services for some of the 32 students and teachers Cho killed.

The killings hit particularly hard in Smithfield, Virginia. It's a small town famous for its hams. One Smithfield woman was killed at Blacksburg, another student wounded, and the third barricaded the door against the gunfire.

Here's NPR's Noah Adams on Smithfield at week's end.

NOAH ADAMS: If you run the Smithfield flower shop, you will describe the Virginia Tech's school colors as burgundy and orange. And Rita Greener(ph) has been selling lots of flowers and ribbons.

Ms. RITA GREENER (Resident, Smithfield, Virginia): Keeps(ph) us real busy. Had to work overtime last night, just to keep up with the ribbons. People put them on the trees and all because a lot of people are from, you know, this area graduated from the Virginia Tech. As a matter of fact, I have a drugstore where they all work over there, most of them has graduated from Virginia Tech years ago.

ADAMS: And their children went there and their kids. Tech was a land-grant school. It's inexpensive. In the old days, young men would leave to learn Agriculture and come back to the farm. And Virginia Tech, more than half a day's drive to the mountain in the West, remains the top college choice for Smithfield high school graduates.

Unidentified Man: O-58, I-26.

Unidentified Woman: Bingo.

Unidentified Man: And we have a bingo.

ADAMS: The American Legion, the weekly game. Before they got started, there was a moment of silence for the victims at Virginia Tech.

Mr. JIM TRIGESSOR(ph) (Resident, Smithfield, Virginia): It's the same group that comes up here just about every Thursday night. So, you know, some - one of our members or one of the bingo players passes away, everybody knows it. Everybody realizes it, so we observe that.

Mr. RICK HUBENER(ph) (Resident, Smithfield, Virginia): We try to do our best when it comes to a bingo game.

ADAMS: Jim Trigessor and Rick Hubener at the legion hall. At the YMCA, I met Rhonda Carlson(ph). She had her two granddaughters with her. Carlson told me about Nicole White, the student who died on Monday.

Ms. RHONDA CARLSON (Resident, Smithfield, Virginia): I knew the young lady that was killed. She taught these girls swimming lessons, so I'm very sad about that. Well, she'll be very missed. It's amazing how much she touched a lot of lives. My husband phoned the rest of the rescue squad. So he knew her, she had worked with him. It's just heartbreaking.

ADAMS: I went to visit Bill and Lyn Webster(ph). The father and the stepmother of Matt Webster(ph). Matt was hit in the arm by a bullet that had grazed his head. As I arrived, some neighbors were leaving. There were foiled wrapped pans of food on the table.

Mr. BILL WEBSTER (Matt Webster's Father): I tell you, sometimes in towns like this, you realize how important your family and your friends are. You know, we believe that God take care of Matt, you know. We can't explain why the others that were hurt the(ph) away and that everything happened. But, you know, we know that God is with us, and it comforts us, and their friends and families are also there to comfort us as well.

ADAMS: Lyn Webster told me she was doing fairly well, until she saw the video of the shooter on television.

Ms. LYN WEBSTER (Matt Webster's Mother): For the families of the victims to see him holding that gun and just to think that some of the kids, you know, that's the last thing they saw was the barrel of that gun.

(Soundbite of crowd playing)

ADAMS: As if nothing had happened, the boys of Smithfield came to the community baseball field for the games. A father, Gary Owens, watched from his truck out past centerfield, knowing that it just seemed like a regular meet.

Mr. GARY OWENS (Resident, Smithfield, Virginia): It cuts deep. As a matter of fact, one of my co-workers - I worked for Dominion Virginia Power - his daughter was one of the ones that was killed. I can't imagine what their families are going through.

My boys out here playing baseball right now, and you try to apply it to yourself and thing, what if it were me, and to be honest with you, that's what I thought a lot and thank God, it hasn't been me. I don't know. I don't think I could handle it. I cannot imagine.

ADAMS: Gary Owens son, the pitcher, is 14 years old. One of the youngsters of Smithfield, who may one day go off to college, perhaps to Virginia Technology.

Noah Adams, NPR News.

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