Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Some worry about legacy of the school
An area high school student isn't interested in going back to Virginia Tech.
By HAROLD GWIN
YOUNGSTOWN A Virginia Tech graduate student from Cincinnati fears that his school will be remembered only for what happened there Monday.
The shooting rampage left 33 dead, including the gunman, who shot himself, and numerous others were injured.
"None of us want Virginia Tech to be known for this. This isn't what Virginia Tech is about at all," said Jonathan Weekley, who is seeking his master's degree in mechanical engineering.
Weekley, nephew of Nancy Kello of Canfield, said he works in Randolph Hall, right behind Norris Hall where most of the shootings occurred.
He was headed onto campus to be dropped off at a driveway next to Norris around 9:30 a.m. Monday when he was stopped by the sight of numerous police officers aiming assault rifles at buildings around the quad where Norris is located.
Kello said her nephew was running a bit late that morning, or he might have encountered the gunman.
"It was just by the grace of God that he was late," she said.
Weekley said he returned to his apartment, checked his e-mail and turned on the television to find out what was happening.
"It's shocking," he said, adding that, more than 24 hours after the shootings, the whole thing seems unreal.
He learned that a friend suffered an ankle injury when he jumped from a classroom window at Norris Hall to escape the gunman, and that the younger brother of another college friend was shot in the arm.
Weekley said he was going back onto campus Tuesday to work on a research project on another part of the 2,600-acre campus. He said he has no plans to leave Virginia Tech despite the shootings and isn't scared.
What happened Monday was "just some freak with a gun," he said.
Once he completes his master's studies, Weekley said he plans to stay at Virginia Tech to pursue his doctorate.
Potential student backs off
A high school student from Hermitage who was visiting Virginia Tech to look at its engineering program when the shootings occurred isn't interested in going back.
Jordan Benes said he doesn't want to go to school there, said his mother, Connie. He explained that he would think of what happened every time he had to enter Norris Hall, one of the engineering buildings on campus, she said.
Jordan and his father, Stephen, were in Burrus Hall, an administration building right next to Norris, participating in an introduction session before embarking on a campus tour.
They heard loud noises and at first thought it was tree branches breaking in the gusty wind conditions, Mrs. Benes said.
They went to the window and saw students running and screaming and realized the noises were gunshots. They spent three hours locked inside Burrus Hall as the campus went into a lock-down mode, she said.
Her first reaction was, "Oh, he's not going there," Mrs. Benes said. But, as she thought about it, she realized that what occurred there could happen anywhere, at any college or even his high school.
Other close calls
Andy Kinel of Newton Falls, a graduate student in electrical engineering, was walking to class and was only about 50 yards from Norris Hall when he heard gunshots, saw students running and heard police sirens, said his mother, Connie Kinel, a teacher at Newton Falls Middle School.
He turned around, got back into his car and drove back to his off-campus apartment, she said.
All of his close friends had been accounted for and all had escaped the carnage, she said.
John Kinel, his father, said he has no reservations about Andy's staying at Virginia Tech.
"I think he'll be fine," Kinel said, adding that the only concern he has now for his only child is how this all plays out in his social life.
Margaret Christopher of Poland said her brother, Dr. Francis Gwazdauskas, is a dairy sciences professor at Virginia Tech, and his office is next to the campus dormitory where the first two shootings occurred.
He had a dental appointment Monday and was running late in reaching campus, which might have prevented him from encountering the gunman, Christopher said.
Right now, he's trying to find out if the people he knows are OK, she said Tuesday.