Monday, April 23, 2007

Tragedy at Tech ... Ryan's story

[Ryan is an Augusta County resident, a home school graduate, who is a junior at Virginia Tech University. The following is his account of events on Monday, April 16, 2007, from his perspective while it was occurring.]

Firstly, I want to assure all of you that I am safe and uninjured. Although I was in close proximity to the massacre, thanks to God's protection, I walked away unscathed. I greatly appreciate your prayers and concern for my well being. ... I have recounted my experience on the day of Apri 16, 2007.

My day started early. Eight o'clock found me walking through a swirling snow shower to my first class. This semester Mondays are my heaviest class days. I have classes from 8:00 through 11:00 and then another class later in the day. At the time of the second shooting rampage I was in the middle of my second class located on the first floor of Randolph Hall.

Around 9:40 a.m., with only a few minutes of lecture remaining, a breathless classmate burst into the classroom. Hurriedly, he announced that he had heard a rumor that "there was a gunman on campus." According to his story, there had been several people killed in an incident at AJ (Ambler-Johnson residence hall).

Naturally, this caused a storm of confusion. Several students, including myself, thought that the latecomer's jumbled story was some sort of joke or an excuse for oversleeping. He had hardly finished speaking, however, when a police quad rushed in to secure the building. A heavily armed officer entered our classroom and informed us that there was a gunman (or possibly more than one) in the area. He told us to remain in the classroom, barricade the doors, and stay away from windows. With that, he left as abruptly as he came and continued down the hall.

By this point, I knew that something very serious was occurring. However, the authorities did not give us any additional information beyond the fact that "there might be a shooter in the area." No one knew exactly what to believe. Several students near me began calling friends via cell phone in an attempt to find out what was going on.

By 10:00 a.m. many different conflicting stories were flying around. One fact was clear, however: there was a shooting in Norris Hall and multiple gunmen might be at large. Around 10:30 a girl in our class was able to tune into the police and local media websites via her laptop wireless connection. We all gathered around her and listened to the incoming reports. Many of us were surprised to find out that there was a shooting earlier in the day. (As it turned out, students were notified by email around 9:30 a.m.) Our professor was just as clueless as we were.

Around 11:30 the police told us that the gunman was down. The tension of the situation lessened somewhat following the announcement. Students were permitted to venture out of the classroom. However, the building was still sealed and police strongly encouraged everyone to remain in secured classrooms.

At noon, university authorities conducted a press conference with reporters. It was only then that my clasmates, professor, and I learned the severity of the tragedy. Initially we had been told that there were one or two fatilities and eight people were injured. As the latest reports were made available via internet broadcast we were stunned. No one imagined that the death toll would be so great.

Finally, sometime after 1:00 the occupants of our building which included staff, professors, and other engineering classes were cleared to evacuate. Police directed us to exit through a basement level entrance in the rear of the building. I later learned that Randolph was the last building to be evacuated because it was so close to Norris. At last, I made my way back to my dorm skirting the perimeter of campus.

Again, I would like to thank everyone for their prayers and concern. I feel very blessed to have family and friends such as you.

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