Gunshots rocked Virginia Tech again yesterday, as an unknown gunman took foot on campus, killing a police officer.
As students went about their daily lives — mainly preparing for upcoming exams — they received an alert just after noon, stating that gunshots were heard near the Cassell Coliseum parking lot.
Was this a false alarm? Just a few months ago, in August, allegations swirled across the university that a person was carrying a gun on campus. However, nothing came of the claims.
Still, almost everyone at this university shudders when terms such as gunshots, gunman or shootings are uttered — it was only four and a half years ago that the deadliest shooting incident in United States history occurred on Tech’s campus, as Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and then himself on April 16, 2007.
So when cell phones vibrated and email notifications appeared this afternoon, hearts dropped — and for good reason.
As a Tech police officer was carrying out a routine traffic stop in the Coliseum parking lot, near McComas Hall, he was shot and killed. From then on, police were sent on a harrowing search for the gunman.
While emergency personnel sprinted throughout Blacksburg, searching every nook and cranny of campus, students were being told to do just the opposite — to stay put.
Doors were locked. TV sets were turned on. Twitter feeds were put into high gear. Tech was officially on lock down.
Wandering around Squires Student Center, you wouldn’t have seen patrons lined up at Au Bon Pain for lunch or students hitting the books in common areas. Rather, men in SWAT suits carrying rifles guarded stairwells, while terrified people swarmed the halls, sprinting toward safety. Gunshots were apparently heard near the building.
Squires was only one location that was identified as suspicious — Newman Library was evacuated, and Torgersen Bridge was flooded with students.
For four hours, our community waited in limbo, wondering where the gunman was headed next. At about 2 p.m., a second person was found dead in the Cage, the shooter’s location still unidentified.
Fast forward to 4:30 p.m. — rumors began spreading that the second person was the shooter, but this has yet to be confirmed. Officials finally deemed campus safe, and everyone was told to resume normal activity.
As a warm orange sunset spread over the New River Valley, the campus was revived. Exhausted and hunger-ridden students emerged from buildings. Words like “mom” and “dad” echoed in their voices as they rushed to notify them of their safety. And it wasn’t long before students were reminded of their upcoming exams.
Yet again, Tech is shaken. Two lives are lost. And although life will go on for Tech students all too soon, it is worth taking a moment to reflect on the heartache this campus has endured. It is worth taking a moment to think about how we move forward.
And finally, it is worth taking a moment to appreciate those who shared the experience of this day and all our other days as members of the Virginia Tech community — the Hokie Nation.