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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Insights Into the Man Behind the Virginia Tech Massacre
Aired April 17, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, very disturbing new insights into the man behind the Virginia Tech massacre.
Now that police have named the gunman, were there early clues he was capable of such carnage?
I'll ask a woman who knew him.
Plus, a campus and a nation in mourning. President Bush tries to comfort a community pierced in the heart by the nation's deadliest shooting spree. We expect to hear from the Virginia governor, Tim Kaine, soon.
And the victims -- gunned down on the campus where they lived and worked and dreamed of their futures. I'll talk to a father whose daughter was lost to a killer's bullets.
And we're standing by for a news conference from the hospital here, where the injured are being treated.
I'm Wolf Blitzer live on the campus of Virginia Tech.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Here at Virginia Tech right now, they're facing two huge challenges -- solving the mystery of a man who killed 32 people in a brutal, methodical way and to help all those touched by the massacre cope with unspeakable horror.
A first step toward healing?
President Bush took part in a convocation on the campus that ended just a short time ago. He told students here, and families, that in their time of anguish, people all over the nation are thinking of them and asking god to give them comfort.
On this day after the bloodbath, we now know the name of the gunman. Police identified him as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, a legal resident who came to the United States from South Korea in 1992. He lived on campus, but in a different dorm than the one where the killing spree began.
A government official tells CNN Cho did have a history of mental illness. Sources close to the investigation say two weapons were found with Cho after he killed himself in the Norris Hall classroom building. One was a Walter P22 semi-automatic pistol, the other a .9 millimeter Glock 19.
We just heard from the owner of a Roanoke firearms store where Cho bought the Glock 19 over a month ago. He says the purchase was legal and unremarkable, with Cho paying $571 and a credit card.
Even as we get bits and pieces of information about the Virginia Tech shooter, we still don't know what drove him to such deadly and brutal extremes.
Our Brian Todd is here on the campus with us -- Brian, tell us what we know about this killer.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're getting portraits of a very quiet young man, described by some as a loner, but who did leave substantial clues as to what he was capable of.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): This is the face of mass murder -- 23-year- old Cho Seung-Hui, an English major who police say gunned down dozens of students at Norris Hall before killing himself.
DEREK O'DELL, WOUNDED VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: He seemed pretty trained at what he was doing. He was kind of going up to people and then shooting them in the head pretty -- at point blank range. I mean just horrible images that you never want to see again in your mind.
TODD: The picture of Cho is dark, his creative writing in class so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service and he left behind an angry note, one final diatribe, railing against rich kids.
JOSEPH CACIOPPO, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: This man was brutal. There was no -- there wasn't a shooting victim that didn't have less than three bullet wounds in them.
TODD: Police say they found two guns at Norris Hall, where 30 of the victims were killed, and they have linked one of the guns to the murders at a dorm two hours earlier.
CAPT. WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH CHIEF OF POLICE: Lab results confirmed that one of the two weapons seized in Norris Hall was used in both shootings.
TODD: Still, police won't confirm that Cho was the killer at the dorm.
COL. STEVE FLAHERTY, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: The evidence has not led us to where we can say, with all certainty, that the same shooter was involved at both instances.
TODD: Originally from South Korea, Cho was eight years old when his family moved to the U.S. in 1992. They now live in Centreville, Virginia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The family is sweethearts. No parent deserves that.
TODD: A university spokesman describes the killer as a loner. Still unknown -- the motive, what drove this Virginia Tech senior to snap, to carry out the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Now, according to a student who took a writing class with Cho Seung-Hui at Virginia Tech, draft scripts that Cho allegedly wrote for two plays contained what this student called really twisted, macabre violence, describes the writing as very graphic, using weapons that this student says he could never think of. In fact, Wolf, this student says that when he and other students saw some of that material, they worried amongst themselves as to whether this young man could be some kind of a school shooter -- somebody who could perpetuate this kind of violence.
BLITZER: So there were some -- some warning signs out there...
BLITZER: ... that apparently weren't heeded as thoroughly as they should have been.
TODD: Not -- not entirely. We're getting more information every day, every minute, it seems, on the background of this young man. We hope to bring some of that to you later.
BLITZER: I know, Brian.
You're on top of this story and you'll get us more information.
We're also learning more today about the 32 people who died in the confusion and the terror on this campus, where they thought they were safe. Each one, and their families and friends, hopes and dreams, so much tragedy here.
CNN's Heidi Collins is on the campus.
She's joining us live with a portrait now of some of those students -- Heidi, what an awful, awful story.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It has been absolutely incredible, Wolf, to see this from the beginning until where it is right now, at least for me personally. And, as you mentioned, for the parents, for the friends, for the siblings of these victims, so much worse, obviously.
In fact, a lot of these personal stories are coming out now, incredible ones that they are, of the faculty and of the students who were killed yesterday here at Virginia Tech.
And at least one of them, he was really seen as a leader, a true go-getter, someone on this campus that had nothing but a bright future. But now, cut short.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a great person.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He lived a full life for someone his age. He was happy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was pursuing what he loved and doing what he loved.
COLLINS (voice-over): Twenty-two-year-old Ryan Clark was a resident assistant at West Amber Johnston Hall, where the first shootings happened.
BRYAN CLARK, BROTHER OF RYAN CLARK: As I was watching the news, they mentioned West A.J. where he was the resident adviser. And at that point, your heart just kind of drops out of you.
NADIA CLARK, SISTER OF RYAN CLARK: I was actually at work. They called me and told me to come to my mom's house. All they told me was that, you know, there was a shooting and that, you know, I asked was he OK?
They said they didn't know yet.
COLLINS: Ryan was a fifth year student at Virginia Tech, working toward a triple major and a member of the Marching Virginians Band. This picture is from his MySpace Web page.
He grew up outside of August, Georgia, attending Lakeside High School. This is his yearbook photo. His family still lives there.
BRYAN CLARK: I was on the way to my mother's home and when I pulled up, there were two Columbia County police cars here. The coroner was here and the chaplain was here. And they were all very gracious individuals.
NADIA CLARK: On the way here it kind of was like, you know, kind of -- you kind of feel it, but you're like no, no, you know? You're just trying to say possibly like OK, when I get there he would have called by now and be OK. And then when I got here, you know, there was police officers here. So I kind of knew when I pulled up.
COLLINS: Ryan and Bryan Clark were twins, a bond that Brian says gave him a physical premonition of his brother's death.
BRYAN CLARK: In total honestly, my body ached. I just -- more like joint and muscle pain and things like that. But you never think anything is wrong or you never hope that anything is wrong at all.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: What a sad, sad story.
Heidi Collins, stand by.
I want to go to this news conference that's underway at the regional hospital here, Montgomery Hospital.
They're answering questions on those students and others who have been injured and are being treated at this hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well, I've spoken with the administration at both the New River Valley Medical Center and Roanoke Memorial Hospital and really, you all need to get the updates from them on those patients' statuses.
And I'm so grateful for their assistance in this situation. They've been a key component of the treatment of these patients, also.
Go ahead, you all.
Both of you step up.
QUESTION: Doctor, take -- take us through what you were told, what you anticipated and then what you saw.
DR. DAVID STOEKLE, MEDICAL CHIEF OF STAFF, MONTGOMERY REGIONAL HOSPITAL: Well, basically -- basically yesterday morning we had a gold alert, a trauma alert, called, which, in the state of Virginia, means that there are multiple very serious injuries coming to the hospital.
That sets in motion multiple telephone calls that -- that literally mobilize every physician that we might need for it. And it became very apparent very quickly this was not a one physician mobilization.
By the time the first student hit the emergency room, we had three general surgeons there. We had orthopedic surgeons there. We had anesthesia. We had all the ancillary services at the hospital there. We had cardiopulmonary there. We had radiology there. We had the lab people there. We had all the...
DR. HOLLY WHEELING, MONTGOMERY REGIONAL EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) emergency physicians were called in.
WHEELING: Additional physician assistance called in.
STOEKLE: And -- and all of those people responded very, very quickly. I mean it was...
WHEELING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nurses came back in.
STOEKLE: It was...
QUESTION: Dr. Stoekle, you said that you did receive a trauma alert.
Tell us, now that you've had time and hindsight, what was going through your mind when you were seeing all these children, essence, being brought into the emergency room? STOEKLE: Do you know, when you're in the middle of something like that, you just take care of it.
WHEELING: One way or another.
STOEKLE: And you're not -- you're not -- there's not things flooding through your mind other than OK, who's the next one?
WHEELING: You just do the best that you can.
STOEKLE: We're going to triage this one, this one is going to orthopedics, OK?
He's got just some injuries or gunshot wounds to the arm or the leg. We need to save our trauma wounds because we were in constant communication with the emergency medical technicians, with the police.
They did an incredible job of keeping us informed of what was even on our way...
STOEKLE: ... to the hospital.
STOEKLE: So we knew what was going to hit the emergency room even before it hit it. And...
WHEELING: They did triage out in the field of how severe they were, also.
STOEKLE: Yes. Yes.
WHEELING: So we knew exactly how serious each one coming in was felt to be.
QUESTION: You knew what level of treatment they were going to need before they hit the doors here?
STOEKLE: Pretty much.
STOEKLE: They made...
WHEELING: We assessed them quickly to make sure nothing else more serious showed up. STOEKLE: And the emergency medical technicians did an excellent job of -- of triaging them and letting us know what was -- what was coming.
WHEELING: Whether someone had a gunshot wound to the belly versus just an isolated one to the arm that wasn't -- wasn't bleeding profusely, dependent on which room they went into, which person was assigned to their care.
STOEKLE: The -- once -- once they arrived, you know, we had rooms. We had cleared out the whole emergency room. We set up the outpatient department, canceled all elective surgery so that our operating rooms would be ready.
The outpatient department was funneled all of the -- what we call the green patients, which had essentially minor injuries, to take care of those for us, which left us, the emergency room, to take care of the more serious patients.
We took care of pretty much what they called the reds, which were the most serious, and the yellows, which appeared to be stable with relatively minor injuries...
STOEKLE: ... and we funneled them off to the physicians that were -- that were there ready to take care of them, whether they be emergency room physicians, orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the way you handled this from beginning, the process, that you saved lives? Were there students who were in danger of losing their lives here if it hadn't been for the way the process worked, by declaring your (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STOEKLE: Oh, absolutely.
STOEKLE: There's absolutely no question about that. And...
WHEELING: And if we felt like there was a multiple trauma victim that may need services other than what we could provide, we urgently transferred them to the local trauma center, which was Roanoke Memorial.
QUESTION: How many did you transfer out?
STOEKLE: We transferred one patient to...
WHEELING: One patient early in the morning (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
STOEKLE: Well, one was -- one early in the morning on that initial...
WHEELING: On the -- from the initial -- initial dorm...
QUESTION: Were there more injuries that were serious injuries or were there more injuries that were less life-threatening?
How would -- how would you characterize that without going into the specifics of each patient?
STOEKLE: We -- the one we...
WHEELING: I would say (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
STOEKLE: I would say there was more that were less life- threatening. I mean, they were serious injuries, but...
WHEELING: But I would say a third or more were...
STOEKLE: Yes. At least -- we -- I think we got 17...
STOEKLE: ... some patients altogether through our emergency room yesterday. One of those ended up getting sent to the trauma center...
WHEELING: Trauma center.
STOEKLE: ... at Roanoke Memorial. And that's not counting the one from the 8:00 shooting.
WHEELING: In the morning.
STOEKLE: We had three patients that urgently, very urgently went to the operating room because they were in very dangerous, life- threatening bleeding conditions. The other patients were multiple gunshots through mostly limbs. There was one that went through the chest wall but actually didn't penetrate the chest.
And all of those patients were certainly triaged. Some of them were admitted. A lot of them -- there were some fractures. There were some jump fractures. There was a fracture that a bullet did.
Those we considered less serious, although they were serious injuries. But they weren't as life-threatening.
So we had definitely four life-threatening injuries, one that was shipped out and three that we took care of at the hospital.
QUESTION: How many bullet wounds did each have?
QUESTION: Did any of these groups do things that possibly saved their lives by they know to help themselves out before they got to the hospital that allowed you to keep them alive?
STOEKLE: Yes, the patient -- the patient that I took care of was an incredible guy. And I didn't really get to talk to him much until afterward. He had a gunshot wound right through his femoral artery and it literally ripped three centimeters out of his femoral artery of his right leg.
And he... QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
STOEKLE: About three centimeters of his femoral artery was gone out of his -- out of his femoral artery in his right leg. And he was bleeding significantly. He wrapped -- he was an Eagle Scout. He wrapped a wire cord from, apparently, an electrical -- something electrical that was in that classroom. He wrapped it tightly and I think he had one of the other students help him wrap this around his leg, because he knew he was bleeding to death.
And then the -- the rescue squads came in seeing that he was bleeding and put this -- this is a -- this is a tourniquet that you put on somebody that's bleeding. And this was put on right above the bleeding artery. You put it on the leg and then it literally ratchets it down until the bleeding stops.
And without him taking care of himself initially and then the emergency medical technicians putting this on his leg, I think the -- I think he would have -- a good chance that he would have died.
QUESTION: Is this Kevin Stern (ph)?
STOEKLE: Well, I'm not going to comment on who it is for patient confidentiality.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the timeline, when everyone started arriving here?
STOEKLE: I think, you know, everything happened so fast once this all started. But I think they started arriving just after 10:00.
STOEKLE: Just after 10:00.
STOEKLE: Well, they -- the two -- the two people earlier, I was not involved in. One of them was shipped out and I understand that patient died. And one of them was dead on arrival.
QUESTION: The student you were just describing who put tourniquet around his leg, did he take you through his thought process?
Like he looked down and he saw the blood, he remember his Eagle Scout class?
Because it seems incredible that he went through all this (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STOEKLE: Well his...
STOEKLE: His mother did. She was very proud of him and we all need to be proud of him and I certainly am proud of all these students. They're in -- I've been here 17 plus years now and I have nothing but good things to say about Virginia Tech, the students.
And I can tell you that we -- we go through disaster drills at least twice a year.
STOEKLE: And these things don't happen in Blacksburg.
You know what I mean?
You know, we do a disaster drill, we have mock patients, they come in. You know, we practice this stuff and...
WHEELING: Practice how to triage and...
STOEKLE: ... and how to triage them and...
WHEELING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) them.
STOEKLE: ... and it just -- but I can tell you that when it happened, everybody -- everybody just did such an incredible job. I'm just so proud of everybody. I'm so proud of the students. They were all really brave. They were all -- I mean the compassion that all of us have for those students and, you know, they were scared, but they, you know, they were so appropriate and they were...
WHEELING: They were very brave...
STOEKLE: They were so worried...
WHEELING: ... and they took care of each other.
STOEKLE: ... about the other students, you know, that were happening there. And...
WHEELING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) students with minor injuries talked about pushing classmates and teachers into the back and locking doors and placing tables in front of doors. They all -- and some of those just had minor injuries that showed up later.
They were all very, very brave.
QUESTION: Can you talk to the recovery process that these people will be going through, the -- the need not only, you know, the physical and emotional recovery, but I assume there's going to be a lot of therapy that some of them are going to need, physical therapy?
STOEKLE: Well, obviously some need -- the families need it. I was also even, you know, proud of our -- our chaplains here. I mean we had everybody mobilized yesterday. The whole nursing staff, administrative, everybody had places set up for any families or anybody that wanted to come in and discuss some of these things.
And, obviously, there was a lot of upset people. But obviously that is not just a process that ends here and some of these, you know, students, and even their families, may need further help. And if -- if they do that, then we're -- we have people that can help them provide that.
QUESTION: Doctor, can you explain the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the students who are now still in the ICU?
STOEKLE: OK. I can tell you that -- that my student who had the injury is doing very well. He's stable and I think he's going to be here a while, but -- but I'm very pleased at his progress.
We had three general surgeons working and we had three that had to go right straight to the operating room.
WHEELING: And one following. I think one had a -- one had one more case afterward.
STOEKLE: Right. And
STOEKLE: Right. And the orthopedics took several.
STOEKLE: But the three that I believe are in the ICU were the general surgical patients and -- and all of those patients are stable and are doing well. But they all had very serious injuries so they're going to be there a little while.
QUESTION: Doctor, professionally, you have to have a certain amount of detachment. You have to go do your job.
When it was done, did you think oh my god?
STOEKLE: Do you know, when this job was done -- and, again, it's just -- it's just -- it's unreal. It's unreal when you're going through it.
WHEELING: It is.
STOEKLE: But when I got finished and sat down and just sort of took a breather, I said I just said I just can't believe how incredibly well this whole disaster went, from the medical standpoint and the support and everybody that helped. I -- I -- I mean I...
WHEELING: I felt like a whole medical community pulled together.
STOEKLE: It just -- as I said, going through a disaster drill isn't like this. This -- this was a disaster. And it -- the community just came together in such an incredible way. I can't say anything bad about anybody.
WHEELING: We had additional emergency departments offer their help, be happy to transfers off our (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you emotionally? I understand that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)... STOEKLE: Me, emotionally?
STOEKLE: Oh, me emotionally, I couldn't sleep last night, you know?
STOEKLE: I mean, me emotionally, it -- I -- I feel for these students. I know some of them, you know?
And I worked with the professors and it just -- it just kills me to have something like this happen (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
WHEELING: We have staff with students who attend Virginia Tech and...
STOEKLE: You know, we have students that...
WHEELING: ... just watching them face their fears...
STOEKLE: ... follow us around all the time. You know, we're very closely associated with Tech. We're closely associated with the medical school here.
WHEELING: Their osteopathic medical school here.
STOEKLE: And -- and even the medical students were a great help to us yesterday. I mean it was just an incredible collaborative effort.
STOEKLE: And I'm just so proud of everybody.
QUESTION: Where were you when...
WHEELING: I was in the emergency department. I'm one of the staff.
WHEELING: And I was...
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) planning...
WHEELING: No. I was actually here. I was on duty today -- yesterday.
STOEKLE: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: I just wondered where you both were when this first happened? You were on duty?
WHEELING: I was the emergency physician on staff. And, actually, I was just getting a physician assistant on when we heard -- heard over the scanner that there was a...
QUESTION: What time was that about?
WHEELING: It was just about 10:00 when we heard that there was an active shooter. And that's when we mobilized our gold trauma alert and notified any additional staff.
QUESTION: Dr. Wheeling, do you remember it ever going through your mind like oh my god, another one, another one, another one?
Because you didn't know the final number, obviously.
WHEELING: No, not at all. And, you know, we just heard active shooter. We had no idea how many people were involved. We just mobilized all our resources and it didn't seem real. It seemed you would take care of one and another one would roll in.
QUESTION: From a doctor's perspective, did -- were there certain things that happened yesterday that you've never seen before in your careers, medical lessons or (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STOEKLE: Well, I can tell you, I've seen maybe one gunshot wound at a time.
WHEELING: Yes, I've never seen the volume. I think it was the volume. And multiple gunshots to each victim, in many cases.
STOEKLE: I mean we...
QUESTION: Were you able to save the leg, by the way?
STOEKLE: Yes. Yes, his leg is doing very well.
QUESTION: How many gunshot wounds did each of them have?
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor this news conference at the Montgomery Regional Hospital here near Virginia Tech. They're treating the wounded. You heard some of the incredible details of how this has gone over these past 24 hours.
Plus, in the meantime, we're getting some new and important information on the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui.
CNN's Jim Acosta has been getting this information for us -- Jim, to our viewers what you've learned.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we just talked to Lucinda Roy, who was the former director of the English department here at Virginia Tech. And she tells us that she talked to officials here at the university because she was concerned about this student. She told us a chilling story about what happened during the fall of 2005.
She says a creative writing professor came to her during that time and told her that this young student, Cho Seung-Hui, was writing some very disturbing passages in his creative writing class.
She took some of those writings to university officials. Those university officials, she says, told her that there was nothing that could be done about it and they asked her what she thought she should do. She decided, because she thought that this young man was possibly a threat to these students, that she decided to teach this student one-on-one for an entire semester.
She talked about what that experience was like. She said he never really opened up during that semester. She says that he was very closed off and guarded and would answer in single word responses from time to time.
But she did say eventually he did complete his tasks.
Now, during that semester, she says she urged him to seek counseling, which she thinks he did do. But obviously that counseling did not help him very much because of the events that unfolded yesterday.
We do have some sound, some tape from Lucinda Roy. We talked to her just a few minutes ago, and she told us exactly what those problems were with these writings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Can you describe that?
LUCINDA ROY, PROFESSOR, VIRGINIA TECH: There were several of us in English who became concerned when we had him in class for various reasons. And so I contacted some people to try to get some help for him, because I was deeply concerned myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And Lucinda Roy told us that in her 20 plus year career as a public educator, she had never run across a student as disturbed as this young man. She told us during an interview earlier this afternoon that she understands that when parents hear this information, that she had gone to the university and reported these problems and that those problems were not properly dealt with, she says she understands why parents would be upset, and appropriately so -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim, have you had a chance yet to ask the university about this to get some reaction, why something, perhaps, wasn't done?
ACOSTA: No, we have not. And -- and that is a question that obviously the university officials need to answer. They have not been -- as we saw earlier this morning during the press conference, they're not really answering questions right now.
Lucinda Roy did say that she had to be careful talking about the content of those writings because of the ongoing investigation.
I asked her the question, "Well, did he write about killing people?"
She said, "No."
"Did he write about guns?"
She said, "No."
But they were of a disturbing nature, disturbing enough that she felt it was appropriate to talk to the university.
One interesting thing that she did talk about, she said that because of the law -- and this is something that needs further research -- she said that because his writings did not warrant some kind of immediate response, pulling him out of class, they were troubling, yes, but nothing that -- that said that violence was coming around the corner, she says that the university official said look, this is basically free speech and he has every right to be a student in this department at this university.
And so that was, at that point, she decided she had to take this student on one-on-one -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting for us.
All right, Jim, thank you very much.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.
He's in New York -- Jack, a lot of these questions are being answered, but as new questions are being answered, so many additional questions beg to be answered. We're learning something every day, over these past 24 hours, but so much we still don't know.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. I was listening to the -- the news conference of the medical personnel. What a -- what a remarkable performance that must have been in that emergency room.
You heard the guy say, the doctor, that things like this doesn't happen in Blackstone, that we have drills a couple of times a year. But over a long period of time, you can imagine the complacency that settles into a peaceful town like that. And then all of a sudden, one day, all hell breaks loose. And they were apparently saving lives right and left. Quite a performance.
The effects of that massacre yesterday at Virginia Tech, Wolf, are being felt everywhere, but perhaps no more so than on the nation's college campuses all over this land.
Within hours of the shootings, some colleges ordered increased patrols as a precautionary measure. Some universities have been in the process of coming up with better ways to relay critical news faster in the event of a crisis. Some examples under consideration include a siren on an outdoor public address system that is followed then by an announcement with detailed instructions what to do, where to go; a system of automatic calls coordinated with local police to campus telephones with important messages; a public address system audible inside campus buildings; and notifying students through text messages on their cell phones.
All good ideas, but officials say that no matter what security steps are taken, there are some factors you simply cannot control.
For example, there's no guarantee the students will listen to the warnings. Students often let strangers in to the dormitories with their keys or I.D. cards or they simply leave the doors propped open. I've seen that myself with my kids in college.
And then there's this, perhaps the biggest factor of all -- campuses, college campuses are, by nature, open places, where almost anyone can roam freely.
So here's the question -- how should other college campuses react to the Virginia Tech massacre?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.
Reema Samaha was one of those young students who was tragically killed yesterday. She was a beautiful, beautiful young woman, an accomplished dancer.
Her father is joining us now here, Joseph Samaha.
How painful this must be.
First of all, our deepest condolences to you.
JOSEPH SAMAHA, FATHER OF SLAIN STUDENT: You're welcome.
BLITZER: First of all, tell us a little bit about your beautiful daughter. I've only seen the pictures. I've only heard the stories. What a remarkable young woman. You must have been so proud. You must have loved her so much.
SAMAHA: Very proud of Reema. She was a young lady that was growing in every way. She found her niche here at the university. She loved what she was doing. She was involved with creative dance. She was involved with Oriental dance, with Cedars of Lebanon, which is a local club here, Lebanese-Americans and Lebanese students.
She was a great student. She was on the dean's list first semester. She had goals. She set them. She achieved them. She wanted to be either an urban planning major with a minor in international relations, because she thought she could solve the problems of the world. And she wanted to also minor in French. And that's where she was that day, yesterday, unfortunately, in intermediate French.
BLITZER: So walk us through how you learned about this.
First of all, when was the last time you have a chance to speak with Reema?
SAMAHA: Well, luckily, you know, I'm fortune and my wife is fortune. We were down here on Saturday and Sunday for a couple of dance events and a festival...
BLITZER: She was performing?
SAMAHA: She was performing on Saturday and on Sunday there was a -- a festival, an international festival at the university. And she also performed there.
She taught a lot of the students the folk dance, the Lebanese folk dance. And she had a wonderful time. We were with her Saturday and Sunday, and we said good-bye Saturday -- or Sunday evening, rather. And that was the last we -- we spoke to her or saw her.
We were to come back next weekend for another event, but unfortunately that's -- that's not going to happen.
BLITZER: Yesterday morning...
BLITZER: Tell us how you heard about -- first of all, there were shots fired on this campus.
SAMAHA: That's true.
BLITZER: What -- what did you hear? When did you hear about that?
SAMAHA: Well, I turned out the news early in the morning. I did find out on CNN that the event was taking place and immediately started trying to contact my daughter. I phoned her...
BLITZER: She lived on campus?
SAMAHA: She was on campus. She did not pick up her cell phone. I was concerned immediately because she typically would call back within a few minutes.
I continued to call, text message, e-mail. Then I started to do my own research to find out what class she was in and what time and what building. And through my research, I found out she was not in her room and that she was at 9:00 a.m. class in Norris Dorm...
BLITZER: So, she was in -- she was in this class.
And then what happened? Then, you still hadn't heard from her.
SAMAHA: We had not heard.
BLITZER: I can only assume, myself, being a father, you started to get really, really nervous.
SAMAHA: Started panicking a little bit. I called my wife at work. She's a teacher.
And there was an early let-out that day because of the weather up in Northern Virginia. And she came home. And I immediately planned to come down here. My son and daughter came with me. And we just wanted to find out for ourselves, do our own research, to see where Reema was.
BLITZER: And then what happened? How did you...
SAMAHA: We got here around 6:15.
BLITZER: Last night?
SAMAHA: Last night. And...
BLITZER: And you still had not heard from her, still had not -- nobody had said anything to you?
SAMAHA: No. I could only assume the worst, because she was not responding. Nobody knew where she was.
BLITZER: Her friends -- you were checking with all of her friends?
SAMAHA: Of course. And we knew she was in that building, and found out she was -- that class was on the second floor. And then we really -- I got very concerned.
I kept it internally, because I always tried to have hope and hold out hope. And so did my wife and children, but I was all the time thinking the worst was happening to her.
BLITZER: And you weren't getting any information from the campus, from authorities here, from campus officials or the police or hospitals or anything?
SAMAHA: No one really could put the names of the victims with their I.D.s, as they were taken out of the room.
So, if they couldn't speak, for some reason or the other, they didn't know who they were. We called the hospitals. And that's how I did my homework. She was not on any list of injured or wounded. And, so, the morgue was the next natural place to call.
BLITZER: Did you actually go there?
SAMAHA: No, we did not go there. They wouldn't allow us to go there. And they weren't releasing any names until they could do a positive I.D.
BLITZER: So, what time did you get the confirmation of this horrible, horrible news?
SAMAHA: Probably around an hour later, around 7:15, 7:30.
BLITZER: Last night.
SAMAHA: It was actually a young fellow on campus, a friend who was at the building at the time. And he knew the ambulance drivers. And he's the one who came in and broke the news to me.
BLITZER: Tell us a little bit about Reema. I am just amazed that you have the ability to discuss this right now. I'm sure a lot of our viewers are -- you are so strong. And, obviously, you want to talk about your daughter.
SAMAHA: Well, people deal with their grieving in different ways. I absorb Reema's energy at this point.
She just is a terrific, dynamic person, great smile. She loved show business. She was a shy person, until you got to know her. And then she had tons of friends. And they are all very good friends. And so I remember that. And I keep her in my mind. Her face is in my mental vision. And it keeps me going.
BLITZER: How is your wife doing?
SAMAHA: My wife is not taking it as well as I am. She's very distraught, very distraught.
BLITZER: And you have other children?
SAMAHA: I have a son who graduated from Virginia Tech last year, and I have a daughter who is a third year nursing student at UVA. And they're both here with me.
BLITZER: The whole family is here.
SAMAHA: Yes, and extended family and friends as well.
BLITZER: Are you angry right now at the university, at -- I mean, it would be totally understandable.
SAMAHA: I am focused on my daughter, in seeing my daughter's body, at least, again. And that's where my anger kind of seeps through.
I think a positive I.D. should be made at the morgue. We could go there. And they are saying that the coroner will not allow that.
SAMAHA: They don't have a -- the reason is, they don't have a big enough viewing area. And I guess they are doing further autopsies.
BLITZER: Have campus university officials been in touch with you? Have they spoken with you? Have they tried to help you and your family?
SAMAHA: They have. They have. They are very gracious yesterday, today. They are doing what they can, I think, for us.
And, if only they could override the coroner, I think we would feel better.
BLITZER: Because it's so senseless. We're learning a little bit about this 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, who was from Northern Virginia himself...
BLITZER: ... which is where you and your family are from.
BLITZER: And it just makes no sense whatsoever, obviously, a very, very disturbed young man.
SAMAHA: We live in a very, very difficult world right now. It's very strange, very strange.
BLITZER: So, you will -- you will have to start making arrangements for a funeral and...
SAMAHA: We have. We have. We are already making contacts with the funeral director and -- to contact the coroner's office. But they won't release the bodies, as they say, for four or five days, probably.
BLITZER: And your other children, how are they doing?
SAMAHA: They are fine. They are strong, very -- great kids. They are absorbing it as best they can.
BLITZER: It's a horrible, impossible situation.
I want you to tell a little -- tell us a little bit about Reema, the dancing, the show business, the smile. Talk a little bit about your loving daughter. (CROSSTALK)
SAMAHA: Well, those things that are indelible.
SAMAHA: They are indelible.
BLITZER: I can feel the love. I know that there's a deep love there. And I have seen the pictures of her. And she just seemed like such a great, great kid.
SAMAHA: Yes, very dynamic. She's a motivator. She keeps me going. She kept her brother and sisters -- she broke the tie when she came to Tech. The elder went to Tech. And the next -- my second -- first daughter went to UVA. And she broke the tie, coming to Virginia Tech.
But, you know, dance was her life. She loved to do choreography. She was so diverse. She loved the world. She loved to travel. And she was planning to go to France this summer to do a -- her summer abroad program to strengthen her French. And, again, that was the class she was in when she was killed.
BLITZER: Are you a religious man?
SAMAHA: I am.
BLITZER: So, God works in mysterious ways sometimes.
SAMAHA: He does.
BLITZER: And we don't understand...
BLITZER: ... why this -- this can happen...
BLITZER: ... why bad things happen to good people.
We just -- we just believe. And we hope that, you know. And I grieve for the other families, too. I mean, it's just -- it's senseless. Her very good friend was also in her class.
BLITZER: I think I speak for all of our viewers out there, Joseph.
SAMAHA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: This is a horrible situation.
SAMAHA: Yes. BLITZER: And you are a remarkable man. Please convey our deepest, deepest condolences to your wife, to your other children, to everyone else.
SAMAHA: Thank you.
BLITZER: And our love and appreciation for Reema.
SAMAHA: I take it. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
SAMAHA: Appreciate it. Thank you.
BLITZER: We're going to continue our special coverage here from the campus of Virginia Tech, dealing with loss. I'm going to be speaking with a close friend of one of the first students to die in yesterday's shootings. That's coming up.
Also, we're trying to learn more about Cho Seung-Hui. We're going to go live to Centreville, Virginia -- that's in Northern Virginia -- where the family of this gunman live.
And President Bush comes to this university in mourning. We will have much more on his words of comfort.
I'm live here on the campus of Virginia Tech, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
We're continuing our special coverage here from the campus of Virginia Tech University.
We're getting new and very haunting images of the events at Virginia Tech through CNN's I-Report.
I want to bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.
Abbi, what are you seeing from these student eyewitnesses?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the images just keep coming in. And, as they do so, we're seeing multiple angles of what these students went through yesterday.
Lee Hall, a hall of residence, we already saw these pictures sent in by Jason Joseph, looking out from the windows of this dorm. This is not the scene of a shooting, but he was looking out at police activity.
Well, now we have video of what was happening inside at the same time, this video here from Casey Clark, a freshman. This is him standing inside his seventh floor dorm, looking out -- this is through the peephole. I'm going to slow it down for you here, so you can see it again.
He recorded on his digital camera the police sweeping the floors. He said they were yelling: Get in the rooms. Lock your doors.
Casey is an engineering major. He says it all became very real at this moment when he shot this, around noon yesterday. Casey says that he's now left campus for a little while to be with his family -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Explain the process, Abbi, how we're getting these haunting images into CNN.
TATTON: We have made it very easy for people to send in their images, whether they are from a cell phone, from a digital camera, at CNN.com/ireport. There's a page there that talks you through it. So, people that have these electronic images can send them to CNN.
We're then going through them. We're talking to the people that have sent them through to get their stories, to get the background to what they were seeing as they were sending them in, Wolf. And we're still getting them.
BLITZER: All right, Abbi. And these are amazing, amazing, awful pictures. Thank you.
So, what could have motivated the suspect, Cho Seung-Hui, to go on such a terrifying spree?
Former CNN employee and WCAV reporter Jummy Olabanji went to the same high school as Cho. And Jummy is joining us here live.
Jummy, you knew him?
JUMMY OLABANJI, WCAV REPORTER: Well, Wolf, I didn't know him personally, per se, but we did go to the same high school. And our graduating class from Westfield was actually very, very small.
So, you know, I recognized the face. I didn't really recognize his face at first. But, when I did see his face on TV this morning, I was like, hey, I know that guy. And it really took me by surprise.
BLITZER: Did you have friends or acquaintances, others who knew him?
OLABANJI: Yes. I have talked to friends from high school today. And people said that they had class with him and things like that.
And he was always really quiet. So, he wasn't really outgoing. He didn't keep a lot of friends at school. So, people said they had class with him and knew him. But nobody really that I know knew him that personally to know why he would have done something like that.
BLITZER: That's the big question. Nobody can understand that.
But, clearly, by this initial portrait we're getting of him, he was a troubled young man, based on his writings, based on what we just heard Jim Acosta reporting, his teacher here who was already, at least a year or so, if not more, raising some alarm bells.
You are trying to piece together who this young man was. And what are you coming up with?
OLABANJI: Well, you know, after seeing the reports, hearing that his writings were kind of dark and kind of saying things about rich kids and things like that, it immediately reminded me of back home, because, from our area in Northern Virginia, there are a lot of kids who are rich and come from money.
And it almost reminded me of -- a lot of people are comparing this to the situation that happened in Westfield last year, where there was a student from Westfield who went and killed two police officers, you know, right down the street from the school.
So, it's -- it's really troubling, how all these things are really connecting. And it's just a really hard time right now for that high school, because everybody is just like, wow, we seem to be in the news so much.
BLITZER: Do you know of the kids who were killed here?
OLABANJI: Yes. Actually, Reema Samaha, whose dad you just spoke with, her older brother, Omar (ph), we graduated in the same year. And me and Omar (ph) both were students at Tech. And I just graduated.
So, it hits really close to home. And, then, of course, there's Erin Peterson, who is also from Westfield High School in...
BLITZER: In Northern Virginia.
OLABANJI: In Northern Virginia.
BLITZER: In Centreville.
And she -- I didn't know her as well personally, because they were younger than me. But I know her from face and by name. And she was such a sweet girl, the way people perceived her, and the way her friends talk about her.
And they even say that, even since she's been here in Blacksburg, she's been a tutor to students at Blacksburg High School. So, she was just a mentor. And nobody deserves to die like that.
Tell us a little bit about Reema Samaha. We heard from her father. She seemed like such a wonderful, wonderful young woman.
OLABANJI: Yes. You know, I -- when I was in high school, we grew up right kind of down the street from the family. And I would see her out and about and playing in the yard with her friends. And she just seemed like a carefree girl. And, when I would stop by and say hi to Omar (ph), her older brother, she just was always nice, always smiling, just not the type of person that you think would ever, you know, have to die young.
BLITZER: Like this, like so many.
BLITZER: And I know you have been speaking to people in the community, on campus, off campus. Give us a little flavor of how they are reacting.
OLABANJI: You know, everybody right now is still in shock.
The one thing, you know, talking to students -- since I was just here last year, I have a lot of friends here -- they are all saying, they can't believe that this would happen -- something like this could happen in the same year, you know, at the beginning of the school year, and now closer towards the end of the school year.
Everyone is just really in shock. They are saddened. They -- they don't know how they are going to be able to make it through the rest of the school year.
BLITZER: Jummy Olabanji, thank you very much for coming in.
OLABANJI: Not a problem. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Our deepest condolences, because I know you -- you are friendly with some of these people and their families. They're going through hell right now.
Coming up, we're going to much more on the shooter, Cho Seung- Hui, and his possible motives. Our Bob Franken is in Centreville, Virginia -- that's just outside Washington, D.C. -- where the shooter once lived.
And also: the possible political impact from this horrific massacre. Will yesterday's shooting put the issue of gun control back on the nation's radar?
We're live here at Virginia Tech. We're on the campus. And You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. We're on the campus of Virginia Tech.
South Korean officials say the suspect, Cho Seung-Hui, moved to the United States with his family in 1992. His family now lives in Centreville, Virginia. That's just outside of Washington, D.C. Their mailman says the family has always been extremely pleasant. He is stunned by what's happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD WELLS, POSTMAN FOR SUSPECT'S FAMILY: I have been their mailman since they have lived there. And, every time I deliver packages to them, they are always nice and smile. They are not home that much. I guess they both work.
But I didn't met any -- I never met any of the kids, so I wasn't sure how many there even was. But I know the family's sweethearts. They're always smiling, always -- always seemed very polite.
It's just break -- it's just breaking my heart. I can't believe -- no parent deserves that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our Bob Franken is in Centreville, Virginia, right now. He's joining us.
What's the reaction there, Bob, to this horrible, horrible news?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, two reactions.
Number one, everybody shares that same feeling, that there's total pity for the family. But the other one is consensus that the family really kept to itself, that, as a family, most of the neighbors did not know them, even though they had lived in this development, this townhouse development, Sully Station, for several years -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What -- what do we know about the neighbors? Did they say they were close with this family? What are they saying about the Chos?
FRANKEN: Well, they are saying that -- everybody agrees that the family was polite, that there was always a smile for the neighbor.
But we have not found anybody -- anybody at all who really knew them well. And this just seems to be characteristic of the Cho family. They kept to themselves.
BLITZER: Bob Franken on the scene for us in Centreville in Northern Virginia.
Until yesterday, Emily Jane Hilscher studied animal and poultry sciences here at Virginia Tech. She was a 19-year-old freshman from rural Virginia. And she lived in West Ambler Johnston Hall. That's also where she died, one of the first victims of the deadliest shooting rampage ever in the United States.
Mark Demetriou knew Emily Jane Hilscher, knew several of her friends.
Mark, you are a sophomore here. You are from New Jersey. You wake up yesterday morning. Begin the process. What happened? Tell us your story.
MARK DEMETRIOU, FRIEND OF EMILY JANE HILSCHER: When I first woke up yesterday morning, I had a voice mail from my brother. I hadn't even heard the news yet. And he was just asking me, is everything OK? I heard there was a shooting on campus.
So, immediately, I went online to check my e-mail. I turned on the news to see what was happening on campus. And I heard that there was gunshots and a victim in West Ambler Johnston Hall, which is where I lived last year.
And, so, immediately I thought, who do I know that lives there? And I know two girls, really through one of my good friends here at Virginia Tech. So, I immediately called him up on the phone, and I just asked him, are they both OK? Are they both OK? And that's when he told me that Emily was shot.
And he didn't know what kind of condition she was in at the moment. So, I told him, please just let me know as soon as you hear anything. And, then, later that day, he just sent me a text message. And that's when I had heard that she passed away.
And, I mean, I only met her a few times. But, when I did meet her, she was a really kind, caring person. So, it was a huge blow to me. And I just felt so bad for her and her family.
BLITZER: And then you heard about the -- the other shooting at the engineering building here on the campus. That was, what, two-and- a-half -- two -- at least two hours and 15 minutes later.
I heard about that. And that's when I really just realized how many people not only on campus, but all over the country, this affected. And it was really just hard to make sense of it all, how somebody could just go and kill innocent people without any motive, it seemed, or anything.
And it was really just a confusing time for me and all my friends here.
BLITZER: Did you get any notification that there was a danger on your e-mail? Did you hear about it? What were you -- what were you being told?
DEMETRIOU: Well, the first e-mail I received said that there was an incident on campus and just everyone to please stay alert and report any suspicious activity that may have been taking place.
And then it wasn't until the second shootings took place that they said for everyone to take cover and stay inside, away from windows, and just be as safe as possible.
BLITZER: Are you going to stay here for the rest of this semester? Or do your parents want you to leave? What's been the general consensus among you and your friends?
DEMETRIOU: Everyone I have talked to loves Virginia Tech. They have never felt unsafe here at all. It's always been a safe campus, a safe community to live in. And it's really just never been a problem.
So, I know I'm definitely going to stay. And I don't know of anybody that I could think of that will leave. So, it doesn't sound that way at all.
BLITZER: So, you are not among those who are deeply disappointed in the way the university responded, the notion that perhaps -- perhaps -- this could have been -- at least the second round of shootings could have been avoided?
DEMETRIOU: I think the university were as cautious as they could be. I don't think they would ever risk any students' lives.
So, for -- for whatever reason they did what they did when they sent out the e-mails, it wasn't -- it wasn't like they were looking past anything. They -- I think they knew what they were doing. They were trying to control it the best they could. And I think they handled it well.
BLITZER: Good luck, Mark -- Mark Demetriou from New Jersey...
DEMETRIOU: Thank you.
BLITZER: ... a sophomore here at Virginia Tech.
Jack Cafferty once again is joining us from New York -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Needless to say, Wolf, news of this spread like wildfire, particularly across the nation's college campuses.
So, we inquired as to how other college campuses should react to what happened at Virginia Tech. Got a lot of mail.
Scott in Bethesda, Maryland: "Jack, once a disturbed student gets loose on campus with a gun, it's already too late. Schools need to start identifying and acting, even overreacting, with regard to potentially troubled students."
Jan in Pittsburgh: "I like the idea of a siren on a campus which would mean a lockdown. Messages could then be sent out via e-mail, text message, et cetera, about what is going on. Sirens would work," she writes. "The kids rolling out of bed heading off to class with iPods in their ears would more than likely hear a siren. Some didn't even hear the gunshots at Virginia Tech on Monday."
John writes: "Jack, I'm a senior resident assistant at a college just over the mountains from Virginia Tech. I was horrified when I heard of the event. I'm terrified at the prospect of it happening again anywhere. College campuses have to establish some sort of emergency procedure outlining communication from the higher-ups to people like me, who interact with the residents on a daily basis. If we can get a phone call saying, keep your residents in the dorm, then we could save countless lives."
John in Clemson, South Carolina: "As a student at Clemson University, I believe the response needs to come from the students, not the administration, on college campuses. Students need to be more vigilant and protect each other. We don't want Big Brother controlling campus activity. And additional security would only hamper the college atmosphere."
And Joel in Minneapolis weighs in with this: "Jack, campuses have to develop disaster-response systems, just like that hospital. The hospital responded brilliantly. Lives were saved. Campuses need to develop response systems like that hospital has. And then they have to practice that response twice a year, again, just like that hospital does" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
Up next: inside the classroom where many students and a teacher died. We're going to speak with the son of that heroic teacher. The teacher was himself a Holocaust survivor.
Also, as the nation grieves the worst shooting rampage in its history, we take a closer look at how the victims are being remembered online.
And we're expecting a live news conference with the governor of Virginia and school officials -- much more of our special coverage from the campus of Virginia Tech when we come back.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Graphic and disturbing documents, what might they reveal about the man behind the campus killing spree? Should authorities have known something sooner about the Virginia Tech shooter?
The gunman didn't kill all of those he shot. Many are wounded, still hospitalized. We're going to hear from family members and friends of the victims.
President Bush offers words of comfort for a community ripped apart by America's worst shooting rampage.
And, as a campus is racked by almost unbearable `grief, survivors take heart in tales of heroism.
To our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're learning more late today about the gunman. Police say he was Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old English major from South Korea who had been in this country about 15 years. A government official says Cho had a history of mental illness. And a university official says administrators learned of -- quote -- "troubling writings" from him about a year ago.
Authorities say the shooter had two guns. Sources close to the investigation say both had the serial numbers removed.
Doctors are stunned by the intensity of the violence, saying virtually all the shooting victims had multiple bullet wounds.
As authorities learn more about the gunman, it seems like the classic profile that we have seen so often in cases of multiple killings.
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