[ Image: via CollegiateTimes.com, a photograph of students taking cover in a French class. ]
At least 33 people were killed today, including a gunman, and at least 27 were injured, at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, VA. It was the deadliest mass civilian shooting in US history (NYT reg-free link). Much of the attack took place inside the school's science and engineering building, Norris Hall. A statement from school administration is here: Link.
Many survivors, friends, and relatives are now trying to track down missing VA Tech students via Facebook (Canada.com story link).
The Wired blog 27b Stroke 6 has posted a cellphone video of the university campus, during the shooting — you can hear gunshots going off in the background. [Update, 230PM PT: Jamal Albarghouti, the VA Tech student who shot the cellphone video, is on CNN and mentions that he shot the footage on a Nokia N70.]
27B Stroke 6 has also posted a personal account by the university's webmaster:
Bruce Harper, the Virginia Tech webmaster, flipped on his Pro-95 scanner during the unfolding shooting tragedy in Blacksburg this morning. A few hours later, he emailed this inside account of how multiple police agencies responded to the crisis to a DC-area scanner enthusiasts group. We're copying it verbatim below (email addresses have been redacted).
At 1:30 PM -0400 4/16/07, XXXXXXXXX wrote:
>I have nothing to add. I'm watching the coverage on TV. At least one
>lister at Scan-DC has a vt.edu email address, Bruce Harper
. He's a railfan who scans the ATCS information.
>Harper, are you OK?
Other than being devastated by all this, yes, thanks. It has been a zoo and
the Media Building (where I'm located) is across campus from where all this
took place. But between having a scanner on my desk (and being info central
for the building) and having to scramble to keep updates on the web site, it
has been intense. I expect I'll decompress later this evening.
I have a Pro-95 that has most of the local frequencies plugged into it and
it definitely has gotten a workout. This was a multiple-agency response and
there is little interoperability — but the police still got the job done.
Virginia Tech Police Department was and is lead agency in the whole event,
with Blacksburg PD right there with them. The Montgomery County Sheriff's
Department is also involved and the Virginia State Police. Give all the
various dispatchers credit for a great job, as they were the linchpins that
kept all the communications straight between all the agencies. There was a
massive response from all the local rescue squads, let by the student-run
Virginia Tech Rescue Squad. A triage area was set up adjacent to Norris Hall
and ambulances shuttled in and out of the area to transport victims to
Montgomery Regional Hospital, the Carillion New River Valley Medical Center,
and to hospitals in the Roanoke Valley. Carillion's helicopters and the
State Police helicopters were unable to be used for transport due to the
high winds we are experiencing.
And anti-electronic-gaming prohibitionist kookwad Jack Thompson wastes no time before thrusting himself in front of television cameras to blame the tragedy on you-know-what: Link.
[Gregg MCCrary, Former FBI Special Agent, Fredericksburg, VA]: There is a contagion factor. There is an increased likelihood of more incidents like this happening in the coming weeks. The most important take-home message right now is to be sensitive to this issue…
[Wolf Blitzer] Are you talking about a copycat factor? (…)
[McCrary] Yes. Because there are people who are already on the edge, and events like this can put them over the edge.
Update, 253PM PT: Eyewitness reports are beginning to surface on blogs, myspaces and livejournals, and in local Blacksburg, VA newspapers. Snip from a roundup on Planet Blacksburg:
[ Ruiqi Zhang, a computer engineering major, who was in Norris 205 this morning ]
"I was sitting in class when we heard loud popping noises a couple rooms down… 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…"
Link to more first-person accounts on Planet Blacksburg.
Some online journal accounts are gathered at this Washington Post blog entry: Link. (via DC metblogs)
Photos have been showing up throughout the day on Flickr. Here's a set by user and1headache which shows law enforcement attempting to secure the site: Link. See also the VA Tech Shooting pool. Look also for photos tagged VA Tech, Virginia Tech, or Norris Hall. Collegiate Times has this photo gallery of related images, and this map of the shooting site.
And an odd footnote: this week (specifically, Friday, April 20) marks the anniversary of the Columbine massacre.