At rural US campus, windy spring day turns nightmare

For the thousands of students on this sprawling campus in rural south-western Virginia, the worst threats early on Monday seemed to be an unusual bout of blustery weather and looming final exams.

”I was going over to grab something to eat,” said Aimee Fausser, an 18-year-old international studies student, describing her morning routine. ”I saw police cars and I thought, ‘Oh, strange,’ but then that it could have been anything, so I headed over to my class anyway.

”Which in retrospect was a bad idea,” the Springfield, Virginia, native added, describing how a few police cruisers suddenly became dozens, screaming around corners at high speed.

Fausser’s mother called her, told her there had been a shooting, and advised her to get inside as quickly as possible.

Across campus, Nick Vozza, was being told to get outside, and finding that he couldn’t.

Vozza, a 20-year-old aerospace and engineering major, was working on a laboratory exercise in an engineering building, Norris Hall, with another student and a professor, when building janitors came racing through, shouting at everyone to get out.

”Everybody tried to get out of the building but all the doors were locked,” he said. ”We couldn’t get out. It was me, and my partner and the professor.

”So they told us to get down and we did but finally the police squads busted down the door and escorted us out.”

On the floors above him, a gunman opened fire on faculty and students in corridors and classrooms. The shooting rampage killed 32 people and injured at least 15 others.

Vozza saw a professor who had been shot in the arm. He also described how a friend, who had been on the same floor as the gunman, jumped from a second-story window to escape, injuring his leg and ending up in a hospital.

Hours after the massacre, police still blocked some roads into the campus. Pathways usually clogged with sports fans — Virginia Tech’s football team, the Hokies, is a perennial championship contender — were jammed with hordes of reporters, worried family members and angry and frightened students.

”It just seems really, really surreal,” said Fausser. ”A lot of people were just told to leave and to run … For a lot of people it hasn’t set in.”

Vozza said he was grieving for the dead students and staff, but was furious that a single person with a weapon could kill so many people and cause such mayhem on the campus.

”I’m more angry, to tell the truth,” he said.

Matthew Moore feared the worst as he headed to a campus centre where counselors were meeting with victims’ family members. Moore had spent the weekend at his home in Kenbridge, Virginia, and had not heard from his roommate all day.

”He wasn’t in the apartment,” said Moore, hastily adding that his roommate is often away. ”We don’t have any reason to speculate that anything might have happened to him but we thought we should come to find out.”

Then his cellphone rang and he walked away from a crowd of reporters to answer it, bowing his head and turning away. – Reuters

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Joshua Cohen’s ‘The Netanyahus’ wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction

The Pulitzer Prize awards grants another controversial award to a book that mixes both fiction and non-fiction

Court hears text message irrelevant to Mkhwebane’s legal fortunes

Advocate Andrew Breitenbach, appearing for parliament, said the message he received did not advantage his client and was no cause to suspend the impeachment inquiry against the public protector

Tazné van Wyk murder trial: accused twin sister brought in...

Murder accused’s twin sister tells court of interacting with the accused two days after the deceased went missing

Those who attack funerals self-identify as pariahs

What happens in Israel and Palestine does not affect Israelis and Palestinians, alone. It fuels a global fault-line of mistrust, suspicion, intolerance and violence

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…