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Students, alumni react to Virginia Tech shooting

| Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech senior Brent Dillie's first reaction was panic when he learned that a gunman had opened fire on campus, killing dozens of students in the bloodiest mass shooting in U.S. history.

"My brother was coming back from his soccer practice and said there were cop cars and ambulances flying around everywhere," said Dillie, a chemical engineering major from Upper St. Clair. "Now, everyone is calling everybody to make sure everyone is OK. The last two or three hours, it's been wire to wire. It's been pretty intense."

Federal authorities said at least 33 people -- including one unidentified gunman -- are confirmed dead and at least 26 are wounded as the result of two separate shooting sprees that occurred in West Ambler Johnston, a residence hall, and the Norris Hall engineering building, on the 2,600-acre campus in Blackburg, Va.

Dillie, who is expected to graduate next spring, said his girlfriend called him at 9 a.m. to tell him a "kid had killed his girlfriend, shot the RA in one of the dorms, which is about a quarter-mile from the engineering building and made his way to the other side of campus."

Students were stunned by the bloodbath.

"It's your textbook college campus. You never even hear about assaults or robberies. I thought this was going to be a normal Monday," Dillie said.

"It was just a complete 180."

Ryan Mustio, 19, of Moon Township, found himself near the scenes of both shootings on the Virginia Tech campus.

He woke up in his woke up in his first floor room in the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, not realizing a shooting had taken place three floors above. And then, while in a 9 a.m. class, Mustio saw police converge on Norris Hall, an engineering classroom building nearby.

So far, Mustio believes all of his friends are safe.

"I guess we're going to have to let it all sink in," Mustio said. "Everybody's just in that state where we can't quite fathom it. Yesterday everything was fine."

Alana Manzini, 21, a 2003 graduate of Greensburg Salem High School, said she's been fielding calls all day. She said she never felt unsafe on campus or in Blacksburg -- a place she said you could walk around at night without fear.

"I talked to friends who go to school in Boston saying, 'Wow, your school is scarier than mine,'" Manzini said.

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