The president of Virginia Tech calls the massacre a "tragedy of monumental proportions"

By Marla Lehner
Updated April 16, 2007 12:40 PM
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Thirty-three people died during two separate shootings on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., on Monday, according to police.

It is the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

Two people were killed in an early morning incident in a dormitory. Another 31, including the gunman, died during a second incident two hours later in the school’s Norris Hall.

The gunman in Norris killed himself after the shooting spree, police said in a press conference Monday afternoon. Authorities are unsure if the shooter was a student, and offered no motive for the attack. He has not yet been identified.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger called the deaths a “tragedy of monumental proportions,” during a press conference Monday. “The university is shocked and indeed horrified that this would befall us … I cannot begin to convey my own personal sense of loss over the senselessness of such an incomprehensible and heinous act.”

Steger said that officials are contacting victims’ next of kin, and will not release a complete list of the dead until the families are notified.

In a live televised statement Monday afternoon, President Bush said: “Our nation is shocked and saddened by the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech… Today our nation grieves for those who have lost loved ones.”

In addition to those killed, 15 others are being treated for injuries, Steger said.

The first reported shooting occurred at about 7:15 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed dormitory that houses 895 students.

Amie Steele, editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, said one of her reporters at the dormitory reported “mass chaos.”

Two hours later, a heavily armed shooter entered Norris Hall, where he began shooting students and teachers. The shooter turned his gun on himself while in Norris, police said.

Students and staff were notified by e-mail and automated voicemails that a gunman was on the loose and that everyone should stay in their buildings. Some students have questioned why the gunman was able to strike a second time, two hours after the bloodshed began.

Police are not sure if the two incidents are connected. They initially thought the first shooting was “domestic in nature,” according to Steger.

“I’m pretty outraged that someone died in a shooting in a dorm at 7 o’clock in the morning and the first e-mail about it – no mention of locking down campus, no mention of canceling classes – they just mention that they’re investigating a shooting two hours later at 9:22,” a student named Jason Piatt told CNN on the air.

Virginia Tech student Blake Harrison said he was on his way to class near Norris Hall when he saw chaos, Fox News reports.

“This teacher comes flying out of Norris, he’s bleeding from his arm or his shoulder … all these students were coming out of Norris trying to take shelter in Randolph [Hall]. All these kids were freaked out,” Harrison said.

The University has been closed. It will be open on Tuesday, but classes will not be in session.

For students’ accounts of the shooting as told to CNN click here.