For hours, the campus was on high alert. On lockdown. Swarmed by campus police officers, sheriff's deputies, FBI and ATFagents, a SWAT team. Buildings were evacuated; in others, students were advised to stay put.But by late afternoon, police were increasingly confident that the second man, the one found dead in the parking lot, was the manwho had shot the officer.They lifted the lockdown.The campus and community breathed a collective sigh of relief, but this popular, troubled school isn't known only for bulletsflying every few years.It's also known for a gruesome student beheading in a campus coffee shop in January 2009.A 25-year-old student from China named Haiyang Zhu was chatting with a woman he barely knew, 22-year-old Xin Yang. Later,students who knew them described Yang as a "very sweet young woman," and Zhu as a "polite young man."
Witnesses said later that the polite young man pulled out a kitchen knife and used it to decapitate the sweet young woman. Whenpolice arrived minutes later, he was holding her head in his hands.Ten months later, Tech also became known for a 20-year-old student named Morgan Harrington, who disappeared from aMetallica concert in Charlottesville. Her skeletal remains were discovered in a hay field in January 2010, and her killer has neverbeen identified.Then, in August of this year, a gut-wrenching Tech alert shot out to 45,000 subscribers: another suspected gunman on the loose.That time, no gunman was ever found.The incessant drumbeat of doom at Virginia Tech makes you wonder if the place is built on an old Indian burial ground. If there'ssomething in the water. If, like the legendary Bermuda Triangle, it sits on some weird convergence of time and space that attractsthe murderous or the macabre.If Crisis Response 101 should be mandatory for matriculating freshmen.As ill luck would have it, as Thursday's crisis unfolded, Tech's chief of police, Wendell Flinchum, was in Washington, D.C., totestify at a hearing to appeal the school's $55,000 fine associated with its laggardly response to the 2007 massacre.Back then, the school waited two hours after the dorm shootings to issue an email warning. By then, it was far too late.The difference between then and now is stunning.On Thursday, it took only about 21 minutes from the time the police officer pulled over the motorist for officials to fire off thefirst text alert to tens of thousands of subscribers:
Gun shots reported
Coliseum Parking lot. Stay Inside. Secure doors. Emergency personnel responding. Call 911 for help.
By 4:30, Tech officials and law enforcement held a news conference to report the danger was over.But the aftershocks aren't so easy to dismiss.Even in the midst of the crisis, messages were flooding social media sites in real time, wondering what was wrong with VirginiaTech, what was wrong with people, what was wrong with the world that these things keep happening.Tech alumnus and Newport News native Patrick Meier was at Tech during the 2007 rampage. On Thursday he told a Daily Pressreporter the best way for students to power through the pain is by leaning on each other."My best advice is go where the hugs are," Meier said. "Don't be afraid to show your weak side
if you need to cry, cry. … The
sooner you can get through the sadness the sooner you can try to move on."