Monday broke in tragedy, as a lone gunman murdered 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty before taking his own life. Here is a chronicle of that morning:
» A 911 caller alerts the police to a shooting inside the West Ambler Johnston residence hall. Police arrive on the scene to find two people fatally shot, senior Ryan Clark and freshman Emily Hilscher.
» Classes are in session at Norris Hall. Having crossed campus and armed with two handguns, English major Cho Seung-Hui begins the second stage of his attack.
Shortly after 9:05 a.m.
» Freshman Erin Sheehan is in her German class at Norris Hall, Room 207. As she would later tell ABC’s “Good Morning America,” she caught her first glimpse of Cho. “He peeked into my German class, a very small class, and no one usually shows up late. So it was very strange that someone was peeking in twice. And the teacher stopped because he was bothered by this twice, and we all thought it was a little bit funny. … It was strange that someone at this point in the semester would be lost, looking for a class.” Sheehan’s classmates soon heard gunshots. Cho returns. “He came in and started shooting,” she said. Sheehan’s professor, Jamie Bishop, was killed. The rest of her classmates were also killed or seriously injured.
» Cho attempts to enter Room 204, where professor and Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu is teaching an engineering class. Librescu tries to keep out Cho and is shot to death. Students attempt to flee by jumping from the classroom’s windows. “The two people behind me actually got shot, so it’s really lucky that I got out to start with,” VT student Alec Calhoun told “Good Morning America.” “I could see the people jump in front of me, and a couple of people broke ankles, legs,” Calhoun continued. “So I aimed for a bush and I hit the bush first, so I ended up OK.”
» In Room 205, Ruiqi Zhang, a computer engineering major, hears shots. “I was sitting in class when we heard loud popping noises a couple rooms down,” he told online student publication Planet Blacksburg. “The teacher and a student went into the hallway and rushed back in and told everybody to get down. We put a table against the door and had a few students holding down the door. The gunman tried to shoulder his way in and when he saw that he couldn’t, he put two shots through the door. It was the scariest moment of my life.”
» Another student barricades a classroom door to keep the gunman out. Student Zach Petkewicz told CNN: “Me and two others got up, threw a couple tables in front of [the door] and had to physically hold it there, while there’s gunshots going on. He came to our door, tried the handle, but he couldn’t get in because we were pushing up against it. He tried to force his way in, got the door to open up about six inches, and then we just lunged at it and closed it back up. And that’s when he backed up and shot twice into the middle of the door, thinking we were up against it, trying to get him out.”
» The university sends out its first campuswide e-mail notifying students that “A shooting incident has occurred at West Ambler Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating.”
» Police receive an emergency call about the Norris Hall shootings.
» Collegiate Times, the VT student newspaper, reports: “Shots were fired on campus in West Ambler Johnston Hall in the early morning hours.”
» The university sends a second mass e-mail warning students and faculty that “a gunman is on the loose,” advising everyone to stay indoors and “away from all windows.”
Shortly after 9:50 a.m.
» In a campus dorm, freshman Phillip Murillas learns of the second university e-mail. He told The Washington Post: “My friend drew his blinds. That was when I grasped the severity of the situation. Disregarding orders, I made my way to the common area to look out the windows facing the Drillfield. Police car after police car sped down the road, grouping at the spot of the field opposite Norris and the evacuating buildings. A friend of mine came back in from class and explained that the situation was happening in the same buildings where I have had classes for months. I literally ran upstairs to make sure everyone I knew was fine.”
» Freshman Bryce Carter gets out of class and begins walking across campus. As he would write less than an hour later in his LiveJournal blog: “The wind blew with flurries about. Sirens were in the distance, and I saw an undercover cop car go about 80 down one of the drives. That was odd. In front of one of the dorms, West AJ, were several police cars, lights off and parked. We started talking about how there are always situations that cops rush across campus for and we never hear about. Then several people walked by and told us there was a shooting and campus was closed. No one is allowed to cross the Drillfield. Hmm. We went ahead to eat some food as cops were stationed in front, checking ID for everyone. I walked with my friend to his dorm to get his stuff as an announcement echoed across campus: ‘This is an emergency. This is an emergency. Take shelter indoors immediately. Stay away from windows and remain inside.’ Right on cue, I heard several faint gunshots from across campus (the Burruss area) as more sirens blared. The announcement repeated as the campus emptied and police ran across campus. I saw snipers on the library. My friend and I went to our dorm as people yelled at windows telling us that classes were canceled.”
» Sophomore Ryan Costa looks over to Norris and sees panic. “I saw people running out of Norris and I heard gunshots,” he told MTV News. “I just froze. I just watched as people came pouring out. … It felt surreal. It felt like this couldn’t be happening.”
» VT students continue sharing their experiences with the outside world (see “Virtual Memorial, MySpace Pages Help VT Mourners Cope Online” ; “On Virginia Tech Campus: ‘I Just Can’t Believe This Happened Here’ “ ; and “Gunshots ‘Sounded Like A Hammer’: Virginia Tech Students Speak About Shootings” ). One, going by the name Xiaodown, posts the following on Fark.com: “Just got a call from a secretary on campus — looks like Norris is the cop’s destination, and there’s kids being flushed from Norris, running full tilt down the hill towards the Drillfield. Still cops everywhere, guns drawn. And dumbass kids walking around trying to shake off their hangovers like nothing is going on.”
» A third university e-mail informs students and faculty that classes are canceled and the campus is on lockdown.
» At Fark.com, poster HellYeahHokie writes: “OK, folks running like mad out of McBryde. He ain’t caught yet, I guess.”
» Xiaodown sends words of an eyewitness account on campus: “She was in the mailroom and the gunman (student aged) came by and pointed the weapon through the window at her. My mother just called … she said a professor was shot, but was walking.”
» At a press conference, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum announces that more than 22 people, including the shooter, have been killed that morning. That number later rises to 33. The shooter had killed himself just before police arrived on the second floor of Norris Hall (see “Virginia Tech Gunman Was 23-Year-Old Student” and “Virginia Tech Students Reach Out To One Another, Seek Counseling” ).