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Va. Tech students from here stunned

April 17, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

BLACKSBURG, VA. - David Macht headed across the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning, walking within a few feet of Norris Hall, when he heard "10 to 15 loud bangs."

The junior from Hagerstown assumed the noise was from construction.

Then, he saw someone come out of the building, his arm covered with blood.

Macht said he kept walking; then he saw the police.

By that time, he said he was at a safe distance from Norris Hall, where lower-level engineering classes are taught. But he went into the next nearest building, where he was locked down for about three hours, he said.

Macht and the rest of the Virginia Tech student body were stunned Monday when a gunman killed more than 30 people on campus and injured more than a dozen.

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"The biggest reaction is really shock," Macht told The Herald-Mail Monday afternoon. "There's never any crime" in Blacksburg, he said. "I never feel scared or not safe."

But on Monday, Macht and his friends spent the day checking on other students to make sure they were safe. Most of his friends were, he said, but there were some he hadn't heard from by mid-afternoon. At that point, no names of the dead or wounded had been released, he said.

Macht said he was released from the building where he'd taken refuge at about 1 p.m. All students and staff were asked to go home. Once he got home, Macht said, "my biggest source of information has been CNN."

Classes are canceled today, and a convocation is planned at 2 p.m. at the school's Cassell Coliseum, according to the school's Web site.

School officials urged students to contact their families to let them know they were OK. Macht said he had talked to his.

Five minutes

Ricky Carpentieri, a Virginia Tech sophomore from Hagerstown, said he left campus about five minutes before the shootings began in Norris Hall. Moments earlier, he was attending class about 100 yards away.

He didn't know what happened until he arrived at his apartment and turned on the television.

"I consider myself very lucky," he said. "We couldn't believe this was actually happening."

Carpentieri said he didn't think he knew any of the victims, but that could change when authorities release a list of the dead and wounded.

Several of his friends haven't answered their cell phones, he said.

"We're afraid we're going to know someone who's close to us," he said. "It's going to be very difficult for all of us ... My prayers go out to the families."

Carpentieri said one of his roommates, Jamal Albarghouti, was walking past Norris Hall when the gunman started shooting.

Albarghouti recorded the events as they unfolded on his cell phone camera, Carpentieri said. That footage was used on CNN and other major news networks, Carpentieri said.

Carpentieri said Albarghouti is scheduled to appear on "Good Morning America" today.

'Your heart just drops'

Sue O'Boyle found out about the shooting Monday morning at about 9:30 a.m. when someone called to make sure her daughter, freshman Lauren O'Boyle, was safe.

"Your heart just drops," said Sue O'Boyle, of Hagerstown.

Her daughter's Monday morning class was canceled, so Lauren hadn't left her dorm when the shooting started, Sue O'Boyle said.

When she woke up at 11 a.m., Lauren O'Boyle realized people had been trying to call her, she said.

"Everyone is still pretty freaked out by it," Lauren O'Boyle said. "No one wants to be out there."

Armed police officers patrolled the campus Monday evening, she said.

Lauren did ask to come home Monday night, but then decided to stay in Blacksburg, her mother said. Lauren was planning to attend a convocation today.

Her roommate, Devon Steiner, 18, also of Hagerstown, said she reached her father to assure him she was safe just after 11 a.m. Monday.

The campus was locked down on the first day of classes in August as police searched for an escaped inmate. Monday's incident came just weeks before classes are scheduled to end.

Sam Draper of Middletown, Md., local organizer for the Virginia Tech alumni group, said his nephew, Brian Poole, lives in the dorm where the first shootings occurred. Poole, a freshman from Beaver Creek, was safe, Draper said.

Draper estimated that Virginia Tech accepts 40 to 50 applicants from Western Maryland each year. Of those, about 20 enroll each year, he said. The alumni group sometimes sponsors picnics for prospective students.

Draper, a 1980 Virginia Tech graduate, hoped to put together a list of local families with students at the school "to see if we can help in any way."

Hearing the news of the shootings shocked him, Draper said.

"It just puts a lot of fear on the kids," he said.

His daughter was accepted at Virginia Tech, he said, but she opted to attend the University of Maryland. "If she'd gone (to Virginia Tech), we'd probably be on the road now," Draper said.

'Mom, I'm all right'

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