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Shepherd University feeling a bond with Va. Tech

New shooting makes Shepherd remember

New shooting makes Shepherd remember

April 18, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - Shepherd University is feeling Virginia Tech's pain.

Seven months ago, a father shot and killed his two sons at the Shepherdstown campus, then killed himself.

On Monday, Virginia Tech was the site of the nation's worst shooting spree when a gunman killed 32 others then himself.

Students at Shepherd - where some said worry has eased since last fall - watched what happened in Blacksburg, Va., on Monday with empathy.

"I definitely feel a kind of connection in the kind of anxiety ...," said freshman Jeb Inge, the sound of last year's sirens still memorable. "It's a moment of extreme terror."

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Not since Douglas Pennington shot and killed sons Logan, 26, and Benjamin, 24, last September has Shepherd banded together in such common emotion, said Inge, who is studying political science and history.

Shepherd University President David L. Dunlop posted a letter on the school Web site offering condolences for Monday's shootings and reassurance that Shepherd is vigilant.

Among the security measures in place are an armed 24-hour-a-day police department, public emergency call boxes and locked residence halls that require access cards.

Branches and shrubs have been cut to improve sight distances and the campus is well lit, he wrote.

All of that already was in place in September, when the shootings occurred in a campus parking lot during a holiday weekend, according to Shepherd spokeswoman Valerie Owens.

Several students and employees said Tuesday that the campus seems safe.

Freshman David Finkelstein, who is studying political science and economics, said the "small-population, small-town" atmosphere helps.

About 12 or 13 years ago, there was "a lot of concern," especially among female students, about safety, said Betty Ellzey, an English professor, but the issues were addressed.

After last year's on-campus shootings, "a lot of people were jittery," said sophomore Kyle Dawe, who is studying criminal justice.

Fears diminished once people learned that the shootings were connected to a family issue and not "a totally random, terroristic kind of episode," said John Landolt, a biology professor.

Landolt said he is in his 37th year at the school and has never been worried about his safety there.

Whether it was jitters, concern or fascination, everyone on campus has been closely following the Virginia Tech massacre, said Richard A. Stevens Jr., the associate vice president for student affairs and director of residence life.

He said he wasn't sure how it's affecting Shepherd students, who might still be processing what happened. Shepherd is thinking of a good way to let students express themselves, possibly through a large sheet to sign and send to Blacksburg, Stevens said.

He said Shepherd is prepared for emergency situations, which includes quickly reaching students through posters and signs in residence halls, mass e-mails and red-letter alerts on the Web site.

Dawe, who is from Detroit, said a "fairly good police department" at the school helps create a secure feeling.

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