CLIPS: Local students shaken but fine (04/17/07)

Of The Patriot-News

Their phones, when they worked, wouldn’t stop ringing. Their computers were flooded with e-mails and instant messages.

Nine Virginia Tech students from the midstate who were contacted by The Patriot-News said they were shaken, but OK. They spent yesterday watching the news, checking their e-mail and telling their friends and loved ones that they were safe.

They’re glad to tell you the same.

ASHLEY ROE, Carlisle High School Class of 2005

Early yesterday morning, Roe updated hundreds of her friends with a message to Facebook, a social networking site:

“Ashley is ok, even though there is another gunman on campus. You may not be able to call her.”

An hour later, she wrote:

“Ashley is hoping everyone is staying safe. I’m ok, you might not be able to reach me, but I’m ok.”

Roe, 20, lives in a dormitory connected by a hallway to the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, where the first shooting occurred. With the phones down, she used her computer and went through the hallways to find friends.

When her phone finally started working by midafternoon, a call was interrupted twice — once by her mother, once by a friend. A friend she hadn’t spoken to since the fifth grade messaged her through Facebook.

Roe knew of an acquaintance in the hospital, but she was able to track down most of her close friends. There was one she hadn’t heard from yesterday afternoon, but she was optimistic her friend hadn’t checked her e-mail yet.

Her friends from northern Virginia were talking about leaving campus for the night.

“I’d kind of like to not be in the dorms,” she said. “Not because I’m scared or anything; I kind of want to have some sort of family support right now.”

MIKE FITZGERALD, Trinity High School Class of 2004

At 8 a.m., Fitzgerald, 21, went to the gym, across the street from the site of the first shooting. He was unaware of the shooting until he was driving home, when police cars zoomed past in the opposite direction.

A fraternity brother was in the building of the second shooting. “His classroom got shot up, but he was in the bathroom at the time,” he said.

He called his friends who lived in the dormitory of the first shooting. “It was the floor below me, so we’re all right,” a friend told him.

An engineering major, Fitzgerald has five lab sessions this semester in the building of the second shooting. He had several classes there in his freshman and sophomore years.

When the names and faces of the victims come out, he might recognize some from his engineering classes, he said. But the friends he tried to contact were all fine. Yesterday, he left the following away message on his AOL Instant Messenger account:

“I’m alright along with my friends. Thanks for the concern.”

MATT STAHR, Lower Dauphin High School Class of 2003

Stahr slept in.

He didn’t have class until 12:20 p.m. Roommates woke him, calling to tell him the campus was closed and a shooter was on the loose.

His phone service was spotty, but the aerospace engineering major’s family knew he was OK.

His mother was shaken up when she found out the second shooting was in an engineering building, where he usually has classes, but didn’t this semester.

“However, two weeks ago on Monday, I was doing work on the first floor of Norris at 9 a.m. for a lab on Tuesday,” he said. “It’s just very weird to think about.”

EVAN HORETSKY, Hershey High School Class of 2006

Horetsky was walking to class, soon to pass the site of the second shooting, when he heard gunshots. Police pulled him and about 500 other students into the nearby architecture building and locked the doors, he said.

The lights were off, but they were allowed to use their phones if they worked. He called his parents as he walked in to make sure he talked to them. He was carrying his laptop, so he got online wirelessly and communicated with his friends. He confirmed the safety of his girlfriend, who lives in a dorm adjacent to the first shooting.

“We got caught up with our close friends, and, luckily, they survived, but who knows the people we’ve had class with or the people we talk with,” he said. “Who knows if they’re all right?”

When they were let out of the basement, he saw hundreds of officers, machine guns and shotguns. He got countless calls from home, including one from his high school football coach.

“It was really nice to know a lot of people cared,” he said.

DAVID GOLDBERG, Susquehanna Twp. High School Class of 2003

Goldberg, who lives a mile from campus, was on his way to school when a friend called and told him to turn around.

He went to a friend’s house, where they watched the news together. It was odd seeing on national television the buildings he walks past every day, he said.

He didn’t think he knew any of the victims, but he heard about friends of friends who were shot at.

“Originally, it was craziness, people freaking out,” he said. “Nobody knew what was going on, and everybody was just concerned for everyone else. Now my phone’s ringing off the hook with people calling to say, ‘Are you all right?'”

Within two minutes of hearing about the shootings, he called his mother. While on the phone with her, his father called.

“Just how serious it is hasn’t sunk into anyone yet,” he said. “I think once we start getting the names of the people that were involved, it’s going to get a lot more serious.

“With the massive numbers, I can’t imagine there’s anybody on campus that doesn’t know somebody that knows somebody else.”

MATT KEPHART, Camp Hill High School Class of 2006

At 10 a.m., Kephart was walking to class at the opposite side of the drill field from the first shooting.

“I saw the cop cars and SWAT team, then a whole mass of students came running across the drill field and to ward me,” he said. “I turned around and went back, and before that point I really had no idea.”

His phone didn’t work for most of the day, but he was able to reach everyone he needed to through e-mail. His mother was worried, but “that’s her job,” he said.

“You’re just kind of stunned,” he said. “I don’t know anyone involved, I don’t believe, but it’s just hard to believe it could happen in Blacksburg. You don’t think of this town being that way.”

It’s been a strange freshman year. Classes were interrupted on the fall semester’s first day when an escaped prisoner was accused of killing a security guard at a Blacksburg hospital and a sheriff’s deputy.

But Kephart said he’s not fazed. He loves the school and the area.

JOE LONG, Hershey High School Class of 2003

Long, who lives a mile from campus, planned to go to the campus gym at 9:15 a.m., but backed out when he heard about the first shooting. He called a friend in the dorm of that shooting, and she described hearing gunshots and girls screaming.

He spent the day trying to figure out if he knew anyone injured or killed, and fielding dozens of calls and messages from friends and family. He told his sister through AOL Instant Messenger that he was OK. He had trouble using his phone, but got through to his parents.

“They called crying, basically telling me they love me,” he said. “I can’t even imagine the parents of the victims, what they’re going through.”

KELLY SCHLICKER, Cumberland Valley Class of 2006

Schlicker, 18, watched the aftermath of the second shooting from her dormitory window.

She watched buses come in and block the roads out of campus. She realized it was worse than the initial reports of eight or nine dead when she saw the fleet of ambulances and police cars arrive.

She called her mom before the phones stopped working, but was getting notices of missed calls from friends and family.

Her brother at Cumberland Valley was allowed to call her in the middle of his class and was able to reach her.

She stayed with her friends, watched the news and kept checking her e-mail. After the second shooting, she and her friends were more shocked than scared, she said.

“Everyone’s kind of sticking together,” she said. “Nobody knows how to feel. It’s unbelievable.”