Sunday, March 9, 2008

"The Immortal Scarecrow - Ray Bolger" - By Tom Shales

Washington Post - January 16, 1987
Author: Tom Shales, Washington Post Staff Writer

"I think I'll miss you most of all," Dorothy whispered in theScarecrow 's ear. We shared her sentiment. The Cowardly Lion was funny, the Tin Woodman was dear, but theScarecrow had soul. Oz wouldn't have been the same without him.

The rest of the world won't be the same without RayBolger, the lanky and vivacious vaudevillian who played theScarecrow, his role of roles, in " The Wizard of Oz.

Yesterday in Hollywood, at the age of 83, RayBolger died. He was the last surviving star of " The Wizard of Oz" -- made in 1939 but never far from the public eye -- and even if his appearances grew rare in recent years, you knew he was around, and you felt that, just like you and the kids, he might have been watching the movie during its annual telecasts.

Bolger never expressed anything but gratitude about being known best for this one part, despite the many others he played on stage and screen in his long and rambunctious career. In 1976, he looked back on the film and said, "It's a great American classic, and after I'm gone, it will be -- and I will be -- remembered. And very few people can say they were remembered for anything in life."

RayBolger can be remembered for even more than this well-loved triumph. He electrified Broadway, dancing George Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" in the finale of Rodgers and Hart's "On Your Toes" in 1936. The dance was constructed to become more and more frenetic, and Bolger said later that he fainted "many times" after his nightly performances. It, too, is an American classic, and so, really, was he.

When he appeared in Frank Loesser's "Where's Charley?," a Broadway musicalization of "Charley's Aunt," Bolger had, and made the most of, another fabled show-stopper, the song "Once in Love With Amy," so infectious and lilting that audiences began singing along with him. Sometimes, he later recalled, they demanded so many encores that he would finally bring the singing to a halt and announce, "This is a play. We have to finish it "

"Amy" is a moonstruck anthem to a first love. "Once you're kissed by Amy, tear up your list; it's Amy," Bolger sang. In real life he was once in love with Gwendolyn, always in love with Gwendolyn -- Gwendolyn Rickard. They were wed in 1929 and the marriage lasted until Bolger 's death.

In person as on stage, Bolger was the picture of ebullience. Even in his seventies, his eyes shined a buoyant, youthful, crystalline blue. He was not easily lured into racy gossip about the early days of Hollywood, and he denied stories that the older stars on the set of "Wizard" became irritated when they thought that young Judy Garland was upstaging them. He was, it appears, that seeming contradiction, a Hollywood gentleman.

He started dancing at the age of 16, saved from a life in the insurance business by the urge to perform. He learned some of his first steps, he said, from a night watchman who had once been a hoofer. For a time, he toured the vaudeville circuits as half of an act called "Sanford & Bolger , a Pair of Nifties." Roaming New England as a vaudeville performer was, he said later, "my education."

His comic dancing style was his alone, facilitated by a pair of legs that, he was once told, "seem to start under my arms." In films like " The Harvey Girls," in which he starred with Garland again, he performed singular specialty numbers full of impish brio and gravity-defying displays worthy of the great silent-moviecomics. He knew how to make people smile and how to leave them happy.

His efforts in television, in addition to 30 years of annual telecasts of " The Wizard of Oz," included an early ABC sitcom called "Where's Raymond?" in which he played a Broadway hoofer much like himself. More recently, he popped up on the occasional "Love Boat" or even on sitcoms like " The Partridge Family." He had tremendous energy, loved to work, and once wrote, "You can never stop learning in television; the medium is limitless."

Only last Sunday night, the Arts & Entertainment Channel, a cable network, reran a mid-'60s "Bell Telephone Hour" that Bolger hosted. Though in his sixties, Bolger reprised a taxing adaptation of "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." When he danced lyrical passages, his arms floated in air, and they seemed just as much a part of the dance as his lengthy legs were. It was the juxtaposing of balletic slapstick and moments of elegant grace that made his dancing style his own.

One other Bolger television show was short-lived but memorable, a Sunday afternoon variety hour in the '50s called "Washington Square." Bolger danced on a studio set made to resemble a Greenwich Village neighborhood. An Italian woman would sing operatic arias from her tenement window. And Bolger introduced a novelty tune, " The Song of the Cricket," that became a national hit.

In 1976, he returned to TV for a straight dramatic role in a remake of John Osborne's bitter play " The Entertainer," cast as aged ex-vaudevillian Billy Rice. The production was poor, but Bolger was golden. He had a climactic dramatic dance routine that made it all worthwhile.

"People just don't know what entertainment is any more," Billy Rice grumbled. Bolger said he didn't agree with that remark, but with his death, the era of vaudeville and all its dauntless, resourceful troupers fades still further into history. When " The Wizard of Oz" is shown each year, it really is a one-night stand of old pros, a two-hour vaudeville revival, a chance to see and share a form of magic rarely practiced today.

It is a cliche' to say we shall never see its like again. But does anybody honestly think we will?

Every child knows that theScarecrow played by Bolger asks the Wizard of Oz for a brain, not knowing he has had one all along, and is given an honorary degree at the end of his journey: "Th.D, Doctor of Thinkology." Delighted almost beyond words, theScarecrow puts his finger to his head and declares, " The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side."

Then he exclaims, "Oh joy, oh rapture I've got a brain " He asks the Wizard, "How can I ever thank you?" and the Wizard replies hurriedly, "Well, you can't." No matter how many viewings are under one's belt, it's joy, and rapture, every time. How can we ever thank RayBolger ? Well, we can't. But immortality, he felt, was thanks enough. It is his.

"Richard A. Colvin" - By Gerald S. Goldstein

Richard A. Colvin,
former police chief

Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

NARRAGANSETT -- Former Police Chief Richard A. Colvin, who in more than 30 years of public life here displayed the political savvy of a wardboss and the compassion of a parish priest, died Tuesday in the Grand Islander Health Care Center, Middletown. Colvin, 66, was the husband of Lorraine L. (Francois) Colvin.
In his stormy, 16-year tenure as chief, which began in 1963 during his term as president of the Town Council, Colvin was constantly embroiled in controversy, much of it generated because he ran his department more by the heart than by the book.
Some said his unorthodox ways -- he had no police experience when he took the job -- contributed to lax discipline and low morale; others said Colvin was ahead of his time and was more interested in helping townspeople than in putting them in jail.
Once, the Town Council suspended him without pay when it learned that instead of taking juvenile offenders to Family Court, he was giving them the option of coming into the station on weekends to wash floors and police cruisers as punishment.
Some of the youngsters liked Colvin so much that they volunteered for extra weekend duty, even after he told them that their term of indenture was up.
Resembling a Thomas Nast caricature of Boss Tweed, Colvin looked, and in some ways acted, the part. He loved smoking big cigars, driving big Cadillacs, and flourishing the thick bankroll that he always seemed to have in his pocket.
But even as a businessman -- he owned the Cozy Corner restaurant at Point Judith from 1946 to 1968 -- his compassionate side was evident. When Hurricane Carol struck with a fury in 1954, Colvin opened the restaurant to area residents who had been forced from their homes, feeding and sheltering them for three days.
But it did not take a hurricane to spark Colvin's generosity. For years, he routinely invited reformatory youngsters, who were on outings to the nearby state beaches, to the Cozy Corner for clamcakes and chowder -- and to a banquet that he put on for them at the end of the summer.
Colvin was also known to drive elderly residents around so they could do their shopping or keep doctors' appointments, and he helped some of them financially, as well.
Colvin had a particular rapport with young people. Once during the turbulent 1960s a near-riot broke out at Scarborough Beach; he responded with his men and helped defuse the situation by asking one guitar-toting instigator to sing songs with him.
He once assigned a patrolman 10 hours' extra duty for using profanity in a dispute with a citizen.
Colvin's gentle nature followed him in his initial months as police chief -- he was so uncomfortable around guns that he refused to wear one; after several months went by, his men chipped in and bought him a Smith & Wesson police revolver. Once Colvin got used to it he was rarely seen without it.
Colvin thrived as much on influence and power as he did on helping others. In fact, he was accused of masterminding his own appointment to the vacant police chief's job when he was leader of the Republican-dominated Town Council in 1963.
The appointment outraged a number of townspeople, because of its political tinge and Colvin's lack of police experience, and it drove a wedge through the Republican Party, alienating some of its other leaders.
And Colvin could be opportunistic, as well -- sometimes, it seemed, more to impress others than to benefit himself. When the Blizzard of 1978 buried Rhode Island in snowdrifts, Colvin applied for and received emergency food stamps along with several other Narragansett officials, and then reportedly bragged about it, waving the stamps around at a regional meeting of police chiefs.
The action prompted one Town Councilman to say he was embarrassed to be associated with the town. Colvin, who could be tough when he needed to be -- one acquaintance described him as "an iron man in a soft suit" -- responded that it was "nobody's damn business" whether he had received food stamps.
Despite such run-ins with his bosses, Colvin always emerged a survivor, retiring in 1979.

"Clifford E. 'Duby' Tucker" - By Gerald Goldstein

Clifford E. 'Duby' Tucker, 101,
lifelong resident of South County

Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- Clifford E. "Duby" Tucker, 101, of 273 Pond St., a classic swamp Yankee who dined on fried eels and delighted in reminiscing beside his potbellied stove, died Sunday at the Westerly Health Center. He was the husband of the late Margaret (Holgate) Tucker.
A wiry figure who barely topped out at 5 feet, Mr. Tucker lived his entire life in the South County region, wringing a living from it by running a fish market, spearing eels, crabbing and laboring in textile mills.
Even at the age of 100, the elfin Mr. Tucker was a familiar sight behind the wheel of his Mercury station wagon.
On the road, his only concession to age was a refusal to make left turns across oncoming traffic, because "I don't trust the other guy." So whatever his destination, Mr. Tucker drove a circuitous route that would get him there with turns only to the right.
Born in 1896, when Grover Cleveland was president, Mr. Tucker delivered the old Evening Bulletin to earn enough for his first car, a used Ford that he bought for $15 in 1919.
Required as a boy to support six younger siblings when his father died suddenly, he learned early to be resourceful with a dollar. And true to his Yankee heritage, he was just as economical with words.
Mr. Tucker downplayed the observance of his 100th birthday in 1996, saying "birthdays are not good for you."
In providing his recipe for cooking eels, he said, "First you parboil 'em, then fry 'em. Never eat eels that's just plain boiled -- a boiled fish is a spoiled fish."
Noting in his later years that eels had declined in popularity at dinner tables, he mused, "The world's gone daffy."
Asked about longevity, he advised: "Throw away those damn cigarettes." He attributed his long life to his avoidance of tobacco and liquor, and to hard work.
Mr. Tucker, who lived with a niece, whiled away his hours in a rocking chair near the woodstove in his garage workshop, which was awash in dusty model shops, fish nets, eel spears and coffee cans brimming with nuts and bolts.
He loved to tell visitors about his beloved Boston Red Sox, recalling that he saw them play the New York Giants in the World Series of 1912 -- the year Fenway Park opened. Mr. Tucker, then 16, took the train from Peace Dale to Boston, then walked the remaining two miles to Fenway Park, where he bought a 50-cent ticket that gave him standing room on the perimeter of center field, patrolled by Boston's immortal Tris Speaker.
Explaining where he got the nickname Duby, Mr. Tucker said that he had been a cutup in school and "my teacher kept telling me, 'Clifford, do be quiet. Do be still. Do be this, do be that.' "
Asked once why he had never lived anywhere but South County, Mr. Tucker replied, "There ain't no better place."
Mr. Tucker was born in Wakefield, a son of the late William and Nancy (Whipple) Tucker.
He leaves two nephews, Arthur Malenfant of Cambridge, Mass., and Clifford Malenfant of Elpena, Mich.; and two nieces, Marjorie Stevens of Wakefield, with whom he made his home, and Nancy Maziarz of Hopedale, N.J.
The funeral will be Monday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. in the Avery-Storti Funeral Home, 88 Columbia St., Wakefield. Burial will be in Riverside Cemetery, Wakefield.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"A Cold and Blustery Morning" by Donna Alvis Banks and Anna Mallory

Roanoke Times, The (VA)-April 22, 2007

Gene Cole silenced the alarm Monday at 3 a.m., stumbled down the narrow hallway of his trailer in Belspring's Eagleview Mobile Home Park and fixed his coffee.

He likes it with a little cream.

In a couple of hours, he would start his workweek.

Now 52, Cole joined VirginiaTech 's housekeeping department 21 years ago. Before that, he pumped gas at a filling station.

On the thin walls of his tidy mobile home are framed certificates marking 10, 15, 20 years with the university. He has one noting his certification in portable fire extinguisher training. He has pictures of Jesus retrieved from his mother's home after she died. He has pictures of his mother.

Cole lives alone. He grew up with six brothers and a sister in McCoy, a rural community on the outskirts of Blacksburg.

"I didn't go very far in school," he says, noting that he attended Prices Fork Elementary School. "I couldn't learn that good."

But he enjoys being around some of the world's most brilliant minds in his daily grind, one that starts at 5 a.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m.

By 4:15 a.m. Monday, he was in his '89 Mazda pickup, driving in pre-dawn twilight to his custodial job at Tech 's Norris Hall.

A blustery day. The wind tried to push him back.

Outside Harper Hall, a Tech dormitory built in 1999, the same year 13 people were killed in Colorado's Columbine school shootings, it was the first day in three that rain hadn't poured. Cold, gusty winds were ushering in snow flurries. It was a cold that Seung-Hui Cho had seemingly carried in his heart for a long time.

It was nearly 5 a.m.

Cho, a 23-year-old senior English major, was awake about half an hour earlier on this morning than most in the past year. Usually, he'd go to bed early, about 9 p.m., save for the nights he watched wrestling. Sometimes late at night, he'd ride his bike around campus, always alone. He'd usually wake up about 5:30.

But lately he'd been lifting weights at the gym, sometimes twice a week. He'd tossed aside his thick, gold-rimmed glasses from the past, adopted a close-cropped haircut and even started dotting acne medication on his blemishes.

During downtime, he'd type on his computer. When his roommates vanished from the shared suite at the end of the corridor, he'd record videos.

On this morning, Cho climbed from his twin bed for the last time, surrounded by the blank walls that had encased him since August.

Clad in boxer shorts and a T-shirt, he walked into the bathroom the young men shared in Room 2121.

Karan Grewal, his roommate, was there. Cho went around him, saying nothing. No emotion.

That was the way it was with Cho, a man who liked to call himself "Question Mark."

Today, those secrets would surface.

April 16 was his day, time for the planned "revolution" to begin.

Before midday, his rage would stain the stately Hokie stone in what would be described as the deadliest shooting spree in modern U.S. history.

Five professors. Nine graduate students. Four seniors. Two juniors. Three sophomores. Nine freshman. Plus, 17 other people wounded.

The world would watch.

Three years ago, Rowan Webster was walking down the hallway of an unfamiliar school when a pretty girl with deep blue eyes came out of a nearby cooking class, saw him and handed him a cupcake.

"What's your name?" Emily Hilscher asked.

That was Webster's first contact with Hilscher, a fellow Rappahannock County resident who eventually became a close friend. The moment stuck with him.

Hilscher was part of a close-knit group of friends from the tiny county, which has a population of 7,000 and not a single stoplight. Together they would climb Old Rag Mountain or trek to hidden swimming holes on warm summer nights. Among that group was her boyfriend, Karl Thornhill, a slender, dark-haired 19-year-old Radford University student.

"The only love interest I knew in her life was Karl," Webster says. "She gave me advice on my own relationship, which was a long-distance relationship, and I told her: 'Karl will make the drive for you. He loves you and you love him.'

"As far as I know, they never had any troubles. Some minor quarrels, but they were completely in love with each other."

At Tech , Hilscher shared Room 4040 with Heather Haugh in West Ambler Johnston Hall, a seven-story coed dorm known as West AJ that houses 895 students. Their room was vacant last Sunday evening, as it often was on Sundays, when Hilscher and Haugh typically visited their boyfriends off campus. They had agreed to meet at their fourth-floor room Monday to walk together to their 9 a.m. chemistry class.

Hilscher, an animal and poultry sciences major, aspired to be a veterinarian. She had a particular love of horseback riding -- a popular pastime in Rappahannock County -- and was a member of the VirginiaTech "B" equestrian team.

She was next scheduled to ride at 3:30 Monday afternoon.

Before daybreak, Gene Cole was in Norris Hall, ready to start his cleaning. First, the dean's office. Then he headed for classrooms to tidy up before students began arriving for class.

One of the older campus buildings, made from the school's trademark Hokie stone, Norris houses the university's engineering science and mechanics offices, as well as the dean's office for the College of Engineering. There are laboratories in Norris, as well as classrooms for engineering, mechanics and foreign language studies.

A thin, wiry man with a face that becomes animated when he's excited, Cole likes his job here. He likes the people.

VirginiaTech 's professors, he says, are "real friendly. They talk to me all the time."

And the students?

"I get along with them real good. A lot of them is real nice."

That's why he tolerates their deficiencies. They're messy, he says, especially the engineering students who "cut paper and everything else up on the floor."

On Monday, Cole was expecting the usual mess.

But he was in good humor.

"I just went to work. I didn't know nothin' was going to happen."

It was on the fourth floor of West AJ, the world would soon learn, where the horror began.

Not in a room, but in a common area. A place where anyone could see the horror unfold. It happened just after 7 a.m., while most students remained snuggled in bed.



In an instant, bullets struck down Emily Hilscher, before she could meet up with her roommate for their walk to class. Before her planned afternoon horseback ride.

Also hit was Ryan "Stack" Clark, a resident adviser known for his academics and fun-loving nature.

Just as quickly, the shooting ended.

Or paused, as the world also would learn.

The shootings were the climax of a grueling few years for Cho.

Fifteen years ago, his mother and father had brought him and his older sister to America from South Korea.

His father had said he wanted to go to a place where no one knew their name.

After bouncing around, they landed in the affluent Northern Virginia suburb of Centreville.

As his parents toiled at a dry-cleaning business, money surrounded them. The teenager began using the Westernized version of his name, Seung-Hui Cho.

His sister had gone to the equally affluent world of Princeton, and later got a job with the U.S. government.

Throughout school, Cho also had performed well.

Straight A's in math, but less success at friendship. No one at Westfield High School -- which had a student body of some 3,000 -- was close to him when he graduated in 2003.

He applied and was accepted to VirginiaTech , an in-state school four hours from his family. He would major in English, despite his proficiency with numbers.

Cho's final two years in Blacksburg had been particularly intense.

In 2005, during renowned poet Nikki Giovanni's poetry class his junior year, students had protested his presence.

In that class, he regularly wore sunglasses and a hat that Giovanni repeatedly made him remove. He'd snap pictures of female classmates from under his desk with his cellphone. His writings disturbed her.

"It was the meanness that bothered me. It was a really mean streak," Giovanni said.

If he weren't removed, Giovanni told department head Lucinda Roy, she'd leave the university.

Although Cho insisted his writing was just satire, Giovanni's threat forced him into individual tutoring with Roy until the end of the fall semester that year.

Roy tried to counsel him. He confessed to her how lonely he was.

Outside of the class that semester, the troubles continued. He began following female students on campus, showing up at their doors and phoning incessantly. In November 2005, one of the women complained to campus police, but Cho avoided criminal repercussions because she filed no charges.

Instead, police warned him and sent a referral to the university's discipline department.

A second complaint of harassment came the following month. That same day, his roommates told police he was suicidal.

Cho was compelled to see a professional counselor. When he did, a Montgomery County judge signed off on a temporary detention order that landed Cho in a behavioral facility outside Radford.

In mid-December he spent one night at the center, where doctors determined that the college student was an imminent danger to himself or others.

But a psychologist decided that, although Cho was "flat" and his mood depressed, he had normal judgment.

Cho returned to Tech .

In August 2006, Cho moved into Harper, a suite-style dorm where he had five roommates. He didn't get to know them and ate meals alone.

The fall semester passed. The holiday break. January.

On Feb. 9, 2007, he visited JND Pawnbrokers, about a 15-minute walk from campus in downtown Blacksburg, and picked up a .22-caliber Walther P22 pistol he had bought online -- a gun that typically costs about $300 and can fire 10 bullets before being reloaded.

On March 12, he bought another gun at Roanoke Firearms on Cove Road. Cho presented his blue and white Virginia driver's license, checkbook, green card and a credit card. The transaction was for $571 and was captured on the store's video surveillance camera.

He left with a box of 50 cartridges and a 9 mm Glock 19 -- a gun that holds 15 rounds and one in the chamber.

Privately, he spent time in the following month making videos and video photos of himself with the guns.

The images showed off his new buzz haircut and some other weapons, including a knife and hammer.

He began compiling a scrapbook of sorts, with printed photos from the videos. Eleven images in all.

In some of the portraits, he pointed the guns and weapons at his head. In others, he aimed at the camera.

He lined up boxes of hollow-point ammunition purchased from Wal-Mart and Dick's Sporting Goods in nearby Christiansburg and attempted artistic close-ups.

"Don't you just wish you finished me off when you had the chance? Don't you just wish you killed me?" he wrote below the picture.

On the videos, he read from an 1,800-word rant against "hedonistic brats" and "sadistic snobs."

"I didn't have to do it. I could have left. I could have fled," he said into the camera. "But now I am no longer running. If not for me, for my children and my brothers and sisters that you [expletive]. I did it for them."

He refers to "martyrs like Eric and Dylan" -- a reference to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine High School killers.

He saved it all to his computer.

"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

And a final written message on one of the 11 printed photos: "Let the revolution begin."

Professor Liviu Librescu was always smiling, always pleasant, always in a hurry.

For a 76-year-old aeronautics engineer, he seemed to be flying high.

His students loved and respected the Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, a man who had been imprisoned in a labor camp and then sent along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a ghetto in Focsani, Romania, during World War II. After immigrating to Israel, he left for Virginia in 1985 for a sabbatical year and then permanent residence.

On Monday morning, Librescu greeted his students in 204 Norris Hall. Then he started his class.

Solid mechanics. The theory of elasticity -- a branch of physics that governs the response of solid material to applied stress.

Fascinating stuff for budding engineers.

Police responded to the fourth floor of West AJ. Two victims, later identified as Emily Jane Hilscher and Ryan "Stack" Clark, had been shot.

Rooms were quickly cleared and students were taken down to the third floor as police performed their investigation. Hilscher's roommate, Heather Haugh, had not been with Hilscher when she was shot. She told police that Hilscher's boyfriend, Karl Thornhill, owned guns. Haugh had even been to a shooting range with Thornhill. Investigators suspected a lover's quarrel that turned deadly and set out to locate Thornhill, who lived in a Blacksburg town house.

By 9:30 a.m., word of the dormitory shooting had spread, even though many West AJ students were waking up with no knowledge of a crime scene inside their own hall. Police believed they had good leads. They already had a suspect.

Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum briefed university officials on the status of the investigation. At 9:26 a.m., the university sent out a campuswide e-mail alerting students and staff of the incident:

"A shooting occurred at West Ambler Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating. The university community is urged to be cautious and are asked to contact VirginiaTech Police if you observe anything suspicious or with information on the case."

Fourteen dollars and 40 cents.

That's the amount the clerk asked for at the small, brick post office on North Main Street, just off campus in downtown Blacksburg. The amount to mail a package to New York City -- overnight. The handwriting on the package was scrawled, maybe hurried.

The package was addressed to: NBC 30 Rockefeller Ave.

The ZIP code was wrong. 101102, instead of 10112.

As the return address: A. Ishmael, 88 Revol Dr., Blacksburg, Va. 24060


The time stamp on the package: 9:01 a.m.

Inside, the final compilation -- 27 video files on a DVD.

In one of the videos, these spoken words: "This is it. This is where it all ends. End of the road. What a life it was. Some life."

About 9:25 a.m., Cole slipped out the back of Norris Hall for his morning smoke.

He had just finished cleaning the men's bathroom on the third floor, even though that short professor with the foreign accent had interrupted him as soon as he had gotten his mop and bucket out.

It happened every day.

Cole didn't know professor Librescu's name -- only that he showed up each morning in an awful hurry.

"I gotta go! I gotta go!" the perky professor shouted cheerfully as he raced by the bucket. He always took time, though, to ask Cole how he was doing before he hustled back down to Norris 204 to teach his solid mechanics class.

"You better slow down," Cole hollered after him. He finished his cigarette and stepped back into Norris.

His supervisor, Johnny Long, was on the first floor looking for him.

Long fussed at him. Cole had left the door of the third-floor broom closet unlocked.

Long's warning: You're going to have to keep the door locked because of these bomb threats. You know, they can make bombs out of these chemicals we keep.

Cole knew about bomb threats that had closed part of the campus on April 2 and again on Friday, April 13. In his years on campus, he had come to expect such things. Student pranks, he reckoned.

He promised Long he would take care of the closet.

He didn't get the chance.

Suddenly, there was banging, popping, screaming on Norris Hall's second floor. Someone had a gun. Shots were being fired.

On the first floor, no one knew what was happening overhead. Long told Cole to get upstairs and look for Pam -- Pam Tickle, his co-worker, who was cleaning the second floor.

Cole jumped in the elevator and punched a button. When the doors slid open, he began hollering for Pam.

Something on the floor made him stop in his tracks.

He saw some sort of book bag. Beside it, a body.

He inched closer.

The person was quivering. He was sure it was Pam.

Before he could bend down to check, a motion at the corner of his eye caught his attention.

He looked up and spotted a figure standing far down the hallway.

The man had both hands wrapped around a gun, pointed right at him.

Cole had unknowingly walked into a methodical shooting spree.

Cho was going from room to room.

His killing spree had started in Room 206, professor G.V. Loganathan's small class of civil engineering students. Without speaking a word, he began firing his Glock and his Walther into his scattering victims.

Survivors say Cho's near-blank expression didn't change.

He left the dead and dying behind, moving on to Room 207, a German class taught by Jamie Bishop. Some students ducked under desks as Cho methodically fired and killed.

Then to Room 211, a French class where professor Jocelyne Couture-Nowak had heard the shots and shoved a desk in front of the door. Cho still managed to force his way in, and he delivered another deadly volley of gunfire.

Cho headed back to 207, where three students had pressed themselves against the door, anticipating the gunman's return. He fired four shots through the wooden door before giving up.

Tech President Charles Steger's crisis leadership team had assembled in his Burruss Hall office after the West AJ shootings. Campus police had informed the president that they had a suspect.

Just after 9:45 a.m., the meeting was interrupted by a report of another incident. This one was at Norris Hall. As the call sounded over the small radio clipped to Lt. Joey Albert's lapel, the sound of gunfire was unmistakable to Steger and everyone else in his office.

"I think I need to get out of here and get on the scene," Albert said.

Soon after, at 9:50 a.m., the university blasted another e-mail alert across campus.

"Subject: please stay put

A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows."

The police didn't have to go far. Norris is next door to Burruss, in the heart of Tech 's sprawling, 2,600-acre campus.

In Room 205, Haiyan Cheng, a doctoral student subbing for her adviser, stood at the lectern and talked. She'd been talking about the numerical solution of ordinary differential equations for more than half an hour.

When Cheng and the 10 seniors in attendance first heard the loud pops, they ignored them.

It was construction next door, they thought.

So Cheng prepared to launch into a new lesson.

But the popping continued, and it grew closer.

Cheng and a female student looked into the corridor.

From across the hall and to the left, Cho appeared from another classroom.

The women darted back into the room and closed the heavy, solid wood door.

An Indian student suggested blocking it.

Four male students pushed a rectangular table against the door as a barricade. Students dropped to the floor, cowered behind the lectern, tables and desks.

For a moment, the shooting outside stopped.

Cheng heard the clink of an empty gun magazine falling to the floor.

Cho pushed against the barricaded door. But the weight of the table and the strength of the students pushing back was too strong.

Cho fired into the door. Bullets smashed through the old wood and metal. One lodged in the lectern.

More shots.

But not into the door. They were echoing down the hallway.

Cole got away from the body on the hallway floor and started running.

"I felt bullets going by my head."

He ran toward the back stairwell.

"I was scared to death. I didn't think I could run that fast."

Down the steps and out the door. He joined in the crush of people fleeing and took refuge in nearby Randolph Hall.

"I just wanted out of there. I knew I was going to die."

Room 204 -- Librescu's class -- would be Cho's next stop in Norris.

The gunshots outside interrupted a slide show lesson.

At first they didn't know what they were hearing. Junior Alec Calhoun said it sounded "like an enormous hammer."

Then screams and more steady pounding.

The reality of danger hit.

Librescu's students dropped to the floor, turned over desks to shield themselves. Some began kicking out windows after deciding to risk a 10-foot leap.

Librescu blocked the door of his classroom with his body and shouted for his students to hurry.

Many of them began jumping.

Richard Mallalieu climbed out the window, hung from the ledge for a moment and let go. Caroline Merrey followed. Calhoun -- the last to jump -- looked over his shoulder and saw Librescu, still guarding the door.

"The two people behind me actually got shot, so it's really lucky that I got out to start with," Calhoun would later say.

The first shot Cho fired when he burst through the door hit Librescu in the head.

Matthew Webster and a few remaining students hit the floor. The 23-year-old Webster instinctively curled up and pretended to be dead as Cho stood over him with both guns. Cho fired at Webster's head, too.

The bullet grazed Webster's skull and ricocheted into his right arm.

When Cho left Room 204, Webster and two other students were the only survivors.

Aislynn Ribbe liked to get to Norris Hall early for her 10:10 a.m. Spanish class. The 20-year-old sophomore from Pearisburg was on her way there Monday when she decided to take a 10-minute detour to Squires Student Center for a cup of coffee.

She drove to the Drillfield, parked and walked toward the fortress of gray limestone buildings. She headed up the concrete steps next to Patton Hall, the building directly in front of Norris. Suddenly, a police officer came at her from the direction of Norris, yelling.

"Get out of here!"

She heard the sound of gunshots from Norris. She ran down the steps to her car and tore away, just as police cars came pouring into campus.

Officers from Tech , Blacksburg, Montgomery County and the Virginia State Police fanned across the Drillfield, clearing it in minutes.

The first 911 call had been received by Tech police at 9:45 a.m, followed by more calls. By the time the first officers arrived, gunshots were cracking and students were leaping out of the tall, narrow second-story windows onto the grass and into boxwoods.

Police discovered that the doors at the building's Gothic-looking main entrance had been chained shut.

Police burst through the chains as gunshots continued to explode upstairs.

EMTs quickly radioed fellow responders for help with the words: "mass casualty incident."

Outside Norris and the adjacent buildings, people were ordered indoors.

Students and staff had grown used to lockdowns. The school year began with a double homicide just off campus that forced students to remain locked in buildings for hours. In the past two weeks, two bomb threats had prompted evacuations and building closures. Now this. What a year.

It didn't take long to realize this was different.

Police with high-powered rifles encircled the buildings. Somewhere, a loudspeaker repeatedly blared the announcement, "This is an emergency ... clear the sidewalk." Over and over. "This is an emergency ... clear the sidewalk."

Then came the ambulances. They came from everywhere. The names on their doors read like a Southwest Virginia road map -- Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Longshop-McCoy, Newport and seemingly every town and community with a rescue squad. Tech 's own rescue squad, staffed mostly by students, rolled up from just down the street.

The upper floors of McBryde Hall provided a view of the police and rescue personnel. Martin Arvebro, a student visiting from Sweden, shot video with a small digital camera. He turned the camera toward his fellow Swede, Carl Nordin, and asked: "So, Carl, how do you like America on the second day? It's just like the movies."

Amid all this, Cho finished with the promise he had made. "End of the road."

He put one of his guns to his head and pulled the trigger. Moments later, police stormed over him and someone yelled, "Shooter down! Black tag!"

Over the police scanners, a voice soon after recited a spectrum of other color codes that indicated the conditions of Cho's victims. Greens, reds and yellows were enumerated, citing victims who needed medical assistance but were still alive. Another color sounded far grimmer.

"Twenty-nine black," the voice said.

In all, 32 students and faculty were killed.

"Miller finds Rhythmic Solace" - By Pamela J. Podger

Roanoke Times, The (VA)-August 19, 2007

Girls hit tennis balls as cicadas whir in the heat, familiar
sounds for Heidi Miller as she gathers strength at a Shenandoah Valley
camp before Virginia Tech's start of classes Monday.

Camp Strawderman place is a touchstone for Miller, 19, a camp
counselor and tennis instructor at a rustic, all-girls camp where she
has summered since she was 8.

This time, she also traveled three times a week to Harrisonburg
for physical therapy for wounds inflicted in Seung-Hui Cho's April 16
rampage when he killed 32 people on Tech's campus.

Miller, who was in Room 211 in Norris Hall for a French class,
was shot three times in her left side. She has a titanium rod in her
femur, screws in her shattered knee and a bullet in her lower abdomen
that doctors will remove later, if necessary.

"Here, I can be Heidi Miller the camp counselor, not the victim
of the Virginia Tech tragedy," she said, sitting by the courts on a
recent muggy day. "I haven't tried to figure it out or make more out of
it. I'm moving on. What happened that day doesn't define me."

While some of those injured replay the events and search for
meaning, others such as Miller yearn for life to get back to normal.

At the 78-year-old camp, the greatest perils are relentless
gnats and wayward tennis balls.

The predictable rhythms at camp have been a sanctuary, a place
for Miller to heal and absorb all of the changes in her life since
April. For the first time, she and her younger sister, Wendy, 16, had only
two weeks at camp together instead of one month. Her family's ties to
the camp are strong -- her mother was a camper, her grandmother a
counselor and her parents got engaged on the property.

"I really wanted to make sure I could come, even if it was
going only for a week or two weeks or a weekend. It was something that was
normal, and it was what I was supposed to do," she said. "I keep
reminding myself that, for a while, this will be something that will be in my
life every day. But there will come a time that it will be a chapter."

Miller is excited to return to Tech, where she will be a
sophomore and intends to double major in geography and international studies.
Her body will be stronger, and she's eager to see friends and root
for the football team. She has been in touch with several injured
classmates and has visited Blacksburg four times over the summer.

She also has some qualms.

"I'm apprehensive just to see how everyone acts," she said.
"Thus far, everything that's come to me that has been a challenge, I've
been able to overcome. The really big one is going back to class and to
sit there and not think the worst possible scenarios every time. I'm
nervous about that."

The plucky young woman doesn't want to be regarded differently
and has worked hard -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- to be
seen as the same person she was before the shooting. She's tall and
easygoing, with hazel eyes, and blond hair tied in a knot at the nape of
her neck.

"That's her biggest question: Will they want to be my friend
because this happened?" said her father, Dennis Miller, 48, who's an
accountant. "I told her she would have to be careful of that type of
situation. And she already knew that, too."

The camp has been an intermediate step between returning to
Tech and her recuperation in her parents' Harrisonburg home. For the first
six weeks after she left Montgomery Regional Hospital, Miller was
totally dependent and couldn't put any weight on her left leg.

Her mother, Lolly, 46, who works with older people in
preventive care, said she's learning to respect her daughter as an adult.

"It isn't the way you expect to see your child after her first
year at college. Usually they are home for a meal and then off with
friends," she said. "Our family likes the imagery of a butterfly, and this
is the beginning of that -- breaking through a cocoon to a life that
has changed.

"In the months that have gone on, I've been very careful that I
don't answer for her. She wants to take charge of this. This is
probably one of the biggest tests in her whole life."

Heidi Miller seems to have adjusted well to her injuries and
has made steady progress since April.

"Emotionally, from the day it happened, she seemed to have a
pretty good attitude, and it made it easier for me," Dennis Miller said.
"If anyone asks questions, she'll answer them. My only concern in the
future is, I guess, certain sounds or smells will probably make her
flinch or take her back."

At the camp's Meddilark cabin, Miller watches five 14-year-olds
with co-counselor and friend Amy Bankert. After lights out, they'll
talk about their day. Sometimes Miller shares her frustration about a
tough exercise in physical therapy, where she pushes her muscles and tries
new challenges such as climbing a rock wall. At this point, her
doctors say her body is healing well and she needs to grasp that point

"They say the last piece of physical therapy is getting your
agility back. I can almost jump rope and hop. I just have to trust that
my leg is going to support me," she said.

"The thing I appreciate is people here don't treat me like I'm
fragile. I know if my knee almost gives or if I stumble, everyone isn't
going to gasp or [start] running over. I've always been independent."

On Miller's first hike since she was shot, all her cabin girls
cheered when she made it down the steep incline.

Margaret Gouldman, camp owner and director, didn't hesitate to
take Miller back as one of 25 counselors for just part of the summer.

"She's a wonderful girl who is upbeat and outgoing," Gouldman
said. "We love her. We decided this would be the best place in the world
for her because we're family."

Miller said the camp -- complete with pit toilets and cabins
decorated with pink and yellow flowering vines -- has been a good place
to recover from the intense physical therapy. She appreciates the
timelessness of the setting, a giant meadow surrounded by green forest and
plum-colored mountains in the dusk of the day. She rarely uses her
e-mail, and she's sheltered from the media that she knows will be
plentiful on the Tech campus as the fall semester begins. She knows people
here will listen, but she doesn't want to burden them.

"She keeps plugging -- sometimes she wants to talk about it and
sometimes not," said Dee Shaffer, who oversees the three tennis
teachers. "She's not going to let it rule her life. She's just picked herself
right up."

Bethany Teachman, an assistant professor of psychology at the
University of Virginia, said good social support, realistic expectations
of progress and visiting a trauma site are predictors of whether
people will recover well.

"There isn't one right way to react to a trauma like this.
Research shows that the body has amazing natural recovery mechanisms, and
we should let those work," she said. In general, "it sounds like she is
doing all of the things that would help her adapt well. It is a real
testament to her strength and resilience."

Miller is on the tennis courts again, mostly serving or tossing
balls. But she isn't yet playing the way she once did and sometimes
she can't get a shot she could have reached six months ago.

"I was glad to be in an environment where it was almost like my
life hadn't changed so drastically," Miller said. "Especially with the
older girls, I used to be able to play and give them a run for their
money and now I can't. I can play at a certain level, and I look forward
to coming back here next summer."

Staff writer Donna Alvis-Banks and research librarian Belinda
Harris contributed to this report.

Jarrett Lane and Narrows - By Beth Macy

Roanoke Times, The (VA)-April 20, 2007

Grandmothers planted pansies.

School and town maintenance crews laid mulch, hung memorial
ribbons and went around Narrows High School putting on coats of touch-up

An old bedsheet flapped from a nearby railroad trestle with the
words "We'll Miss U Jarrett" painted in blue.

It seemed that Jarrett Lee Lane, the 22-year-old Virginia Tech
senior killed in Monday's massacre, didn't just belong to the mother
and grandmother who raised him. He belonged to the entire
3,000-population town.

And for two solid days, the town has prepared to say goodbye to

"Nobody had to ask anybody to do any of this," said athletic
director Don Lowe, as the last of the weeds were being pulled.

"People have just been showing up to help."

So many people are expected to attend Saturday's funeral,
scheduled for 2 p.m. in the school auditorium, that chairs will be set up in
the gymnasium with closed-circuit television to serve the overflow

Gathering at the high school felt right, said school employees
and volunteers, because Narrows High was definitely Jarrett's home away
from home:

The place where he caught the 6:30 bus to attend the Southwest
Virginia Governor's School in Dublin;

The place where he played four sports -- and where coaches had
to kick him out of the gym long after practice was over.

The place he still visited when he was home from Tech on break.

Thursday afternoon, friends and teachers wandered in and out of
the school entranceway, contributing items to the memorial display or
stopping by to look and pray. Clyde Turner brought a photograph to
add: a copy of the Little League basketball team he had long ago
coached, with fourth-grader Jarrett front and center, his little shoulders
hunched, his freckled face grinning huge.

Between classes, students signed a memorial bulletin board,
writing goodbye notes to Jarrett. National Honor Society members helped
arrange Hokie paraphernalia -- a rug, a table, a hand-made quilt -- and
pinned school-colored yellow and gold ribbons on visiting alumni and

Todd Lusk, one of his basketball coaches, hauled out several of
Jarrett's No. 24 jerseys from storage and arranged them on a table. A
trombone from his band days was laid on top, next to copies of the
2003 Narrows yearbook, in which Jarrett was voted "most likely to have
his head stuck in a book."

A framed picture of Jarrett as the 2003 class valedictorian was
displayed on an easel, behind which his National Honor Society sash
was draped.

When he was finished tying bows on the trees out front, school
maintenance worker Sonny Frazier stepped inside to pay his respects.

He'd been Jarrett's Little League football coach in the seventh
grade and recalled him as the "kind of kid, you could hug him even
when he got older. Do you know what I'm trying to say?" he asked, choking

People talked about his ever-present smile. They speculated
about the number of hours he slept between his rigorous Governor's School
homework, playing all those sports and doing all those activities at
First Baptist Church.

"Every day after practice, he'd say to me, 'What can I do to
get better and to help the team get better?'" coach Bryan Patteson
recalled. "He wasn't the best player on the team, but he was the best team
player you've ever seen."

Jarrett was crazy about this school and this town, Patteson
added, and the whole town took a part in raising him.

Today's visitation at the school will be closed to the media,
at Jarrett's family's request. Earlier in the week, national media
presence had been so intense -- with reporters banging on Jarrett's mom's
door -- that local police stationed themselves in front of Tracey
Lane's home.

"Katie Couric called me on my cellphone," complained Roger
Shepherd, Jarrett's brother-in-law, as he stopped to look at the school
memorial. "How Katie Couric got my cellphone number, I have no idea."

Down the hall, junior Gage Dent showed off a text message he'd
received from Jarrett just hours before a gunman stormed his
engineering class and changed life in this small, close-knit town.

Jarrett had gone home to attend church with his family, as he
did every Sunday, and to share the recent good news: that he'd just been
offered a full ride to the Coastal Engineering Graduate program at
the University of Florida with a graduate assistantship to boot.

After church, he gave Dent a pep talk about following his dream
to play college baseball. Later that night, from his Blacksburg
apartment, he took time to send the young ballplayer this text message:

Gage if I had any advice 4 u itd be to acknowledge ur talent
and run w it. Focus on ur pitchn, if u wanna play n college then go 4 it
all out.

"I'm keeping it forever," Dent said of the message.

Several blocks away, Carleena Blankenship walked door to door
amid the downtown Narrows businesses. She hung up Hokie-colored bows --
the same kind of ribbons the Junior Women's Club posted along the New
River bridge earlier in the week.

The wind picked up and the rain started to drizzle, but
Blankenship stuck to her task. "I didn't have a son, but if I ever did, I'd
want him to be just like Jarrett," she said.

"The Messenger" by Matt Chittum

Roanoke Times, The (VA)-September 1, 2007

The voice leapt above the hum from the waiting room television
at Montgomery Regional Hospital.

News of the shootings at Virginia Tech was not two hours old,
and the network chatter was already relentless.

But the voice distinguished itself because the people in the
waiting room recognized it.

It was the voice of Derek O'Dell, the very man O'Dell's aunt,
uncle and girlfriend were waiting to see.

They knew only that he had been shot, was not seriously
wounded, and they still didn't know exactly how it had happened.

Yet there was his voice, quiet and calm, telling the story of
how Seung-Hui Cho had entered his classroom and sprayed bullets through

O'Dell had been unable to speak to his parents or girlfriend,
other than to send a text message.

He had been bandaged and tended to, yet no one had asked him
what had happened.

Until the call came from MSNBC.

At last, someone was asking.

He could tell the true story of what happened in Norris Hall,
he thought. Maybe his mother, in Colorado on business, would hear him
and know he was OK.

If nothing else, he could release the horror of what he had
seen and survived.

So the ordinarily quiet, attention-shunning O'Dell began to

And for the next days, weeks and months, he kept on talking.

To reporters, to friends, to his old high school.

To his psychologist, to the widow of his professor. He talked.

To the guy who sat feet from him and whose blood he saw spill
out, he talked.

It was by accident, but before wounds had ceased to bleed,
O'Dell seized on just what he needed for his wounded psyche.

He would talk.

The trauma had not set in, the search for answers had not
begun, and already he was changing.

And it wasn't all bad.

The trauma

Joanne Hawley was two-thirds of the continent away from
Blacksburg when she heard. The story came to her fully formed: the mass
shooting; 33 dead, including the perpetrator; numerous wounded; and her son,
Derek, a sophomore who had just turned 20, among them, and alive.

She had been in a conference all day in Colorado, ignorant of
the events at Virginia Tech.

She emerged to see a cousin, who spun the terrible yarn for
her. Hawley, a post-traumatic stress disorder counselor, knew right away
what her son could be facing, "the whole constellation of symptoms."

The flashbacks.

The nightmares.

The jumpiness.

The constant vigilance and sense of danger.

As a psychologist would later tell her and her husband, Roger,
what used to be normal in all their lives was gone. There would be a
new normal.

Hawley arranged for her son to meet with a psychologist just 26
hours after the shooting.

"That's the only thing I could do from 2,000 miles away," she

What she longed to do was hug her quiet boy, the skinny kid
with round shoulders and remarkable blue eyes who demanded his parents
remove insects from their home rather than swat them, even wasps.

O'Dell had been raised in a peaceful home by pacifist parents.
He decided at 10 to become a veterinarian after he saw a dog hit by a
car and was helpless to give it aid. He played soccer at Cave Spring
High School, but he excelled at a more cerebral game: chess. He seemed
wired for the game's calm intensity, predisposed to thinking moves ahead
and to analyzing every match after it was over.

He was a state champion, but shunned the attention it earned

"He didn't want extra attention that other people didn't have,"
his father said.

Unlike his war-protesting father who is prone to questioning
the establishment, Derek O'Dell always sought the comfort of the group
and felt warmth in his associations -- his high school, his university.

He rarely played with toy guns as a child. The only weapons in
the O'Dell home are Civil War relics Roger O'Dell inherited -- a sword
and rifle over the mantel.

Before April 16, he had never been in the presence of live

The face was male, Asian. Just a sliver of it visible when the
door to Room 207 cracked open 20 minutes into class and closed again
quickly. Probably some kid confused about which room was his. Minutes
later, the same face appeared at the door again.

"Why are you looking in here again?" O'Dell thought, annoyed.
"You just looked in here."

Jamie Bishop continued his lesson in German grammar until the
next interruption.

"Is that what I think it is?" someone asked. No, it must be
just more construction noise.

Later, O'Dell would think, "That was my first mistake."

The messenger

In the days after the shooting, O'Dell craved details.

He scoured news reports, Web sites, television for new nuggets
of information to help him re-create the event.

This was real-life game analysis. The chess player was trying
replay the match in his head.

Did Seung-Hui Cho come to Room 207 second or third? How much
time did he and his classmates really have to react? Did he do all he
could to help?

If he couldn't know the why, at least he wanted the what and

When he wasn't searching for details, O'Dell was talking. In
the first two weeks after the shooting, he was interviewed dozens of
times by reporters.

It seemed to help. He told his mother, "If I'm talking about
it, I'm not thinking about it."

His psychologist would later tell Hawley that this seemed to be
part of O'Dell's healing.

It was a therapeutic role he adopted for himself: the

Yet, he couldn't bring himself to say his assailant's name. He
wanted to forget the killer, yet worried that if he blotted the man
from his memory, he might also lose the memory of those who died.

The event that would forever mark the before and after in his
life, he referred to only as "that day."

The clap of a woman's flip-flops on stairs made him jump.

When he returned to class the Monday after the shooting, he
would not sit near the door, as he had in Norris 207. When he took his
seat, he quickly formulated an escape plan.

Thoughts of how he could defend himself leapt to mind
involuntarily: "This isn't only a laptop. It's a weapon." He knows it doesn't
make sense.

And then, two weeks after the shooting, one of his roommates
made a jarring discovery.

The fleece jacket O'Dell wore when he was shot bore not only
the holes where a bullet passed through his right arm, but three others.

Two between the collar and right shoulder indicate a bullet
missed his neck by inches.

And a single hole near the zipper seemed to show a bullet had
narrowly missed his midsection, perhaps even his heart.

He had come even closer to death than he realized.`

This must be some sort of criminal justice class experiment, he
thought. Later, someone would come and ask them what they saw to test
the validity of eyewitness accounts, right?

The wounded professor staggered toward the shooter, was shot
again. Just feet away, blood erupted from Sean McQuade's neck.

O'Dell scrambled under his desk. A shell casing rattled to
stillness on the floor near him.

This was real.

He crept toward the rear of the room, trying to put as much
distance as he could between himself and that gun.

Gunfire roared in his ears. It was all he could hear. Where was
the shooter? From beneath a desk, he caught only glimpses of his feet.
He followed the sound of the gun. The shooter was walking through the
room firing rhythmically. Classmates fell into the aisles as they were

And then it was quiet.

The recognition

The May trip to the beach was no escape.

The O'Dells and the family of Derek's girlfriend, Laura Jones,
arrived at their rented beach house on the Outer Banks to a cheerful
banner that read, "Surf or Sound Realty Welcomes Derek O'Dell!"

Inside the house were baskets of baked goods and gift
certificates from businesses for miles around -- well more than you could spend
in a week, his parents said.

He's like a star, his mother remarked. People recognized him --
at a roadside fruit stand in North Carolina backcountry, at Mass at
the Catholic church in Buxton, where the Cape Hatteras lighthouse is.

O'Dell's churchgoing had slipped in recent years. Now, he
wanted to go to Mass all the time. He had survived when others hadn't. Why?
What did God have in store for him?

He didn't trust he would be so blessed again.

Every night at the beach, he locked his bedroom door.

The door! What if the shooter comes back?

He leapt across the desks to reach the door. His right arm felt
numb. A bullet had passed clean through his biceps. He peeled his
jacket back, fashioned a tourniquet from his leather belt, felt for his
cellphone and dialed 911.

"Quiet! Quiet!" Trey Perkins, a classmate, told him. "He might
come back."

O'Dell's right shoe was missing. It had come off during his
crawl to the back of the room. He had to have it back. If he had to run,
he thought, he didn't want to be hindered by slipping in his socks on
the slick floor.

Perkins tossed it to him. He slipped it on, braced his back
against the wall, and jammed his foot beneath the door like a wedge to
keep the killer out.

The appreciation

"I was involved in the incident at Virginia Tech," O'Dell said
with remarkable understatement, but he assumed the audience already

He returned to his old high school, Cave Spring, in June, but
not to talk about the shooting.

Rather, it was to lead a panel discussion where he and, as
Principal Martha Cobble put it, "people who had survived their first year
of college" would reveal the secrets of college life to seniors.

Take a hammer and a screwdriver.

Make boyfriend/girlfriend visitation rules with your roommate.

Don't be embarrassed when your parents cry on move-in day.

O'Dell, who had not necessarily been anonymous at Cave Spring
but was not homecoming king either, had offered to organize the event
when Cobble mentioned it to him.

He tucked "Virginia Tech tragedy" at the bottom of the list of
topics he distributed. But the shooting lurked in the room, waiting for

At the end of each session, he gave a brief summary of his role
in the shooting. Once he mentioned his attacker by name. "Cho
Seung-Hui," he said, pausing as he realized he had the names out of order. "Or
however you say his name," he added dismissively.

He implored the students to appreciate their professors. Five
died on April 16, he said. "They're amazing people. Be grateful for
everything they do for you."

Then he pulled out his fleece jacket and passed a pencil
through the bullet holes in a strange kind of show-and-tell.

"Without God, I know I wouldn't be here," he said.

The door handle jiggled, then turned. It came unlatched. The
shooter pushed the door, forced it open a few inches.

O'Dell stood on the hinged side of the door, his left leg
stretched across to secure it. Katelyn Carney stood in front of the door,
pushing on it with both hands. They forced it closed again.

Bullets ripped through the wooden door. One came through
Carney's hand. The door shook with every gunshot, like someone pounding on
it. Every bullet came closer to O'Dell than the last.

He closed his eyes, prayed for it to end. And for the moment,
it did.

All around him, people were bleeding, dying or dead. Sean
McQuade listed over. O'Dell wanted to help, knew how to help.

But the door. He couldn't leave the door.

The absolution

It was late July, and O'Dell stood outside a building at the
University of Virginia. He was there for the public comment session of
the Virginia Tech Review Panel appointed by the governor.

It was the kind of atmosphere that put him on high alert.

He stepped into the building lobby, which bustled with people
during a break in the meeting. Who were they? He studied identification
badges, trying to sort out who was who, why they were there.

In the auditorium, he noted exits to the left and right of the
stage and took his seat in a row near the front. Hours later, he could
recount that eight people sat on his left, three to the right. One row
back, there were only two people -- that would be his escape route.

For weeks it had been as normal a summer as it could be. The
reporters didn't call much anymore. He worked at his regular job at the
Cave Spring Veterinary Clinic, hung out with his girlfriend, Laura,
cooked her pasta for their third-anniversary dinner.

But there, with the panel onstage before him, and parents and
spouses of those who died around him, his happiness left him.

As speakers took to the lectern, he looked down, his eyes
searching a blank sheet of paper on his lap. He fiddled with his pen.
Another speaker was called: "Dave McCain."

He looked up, and the tears began. He knew Lauren McCain, who
had sat just in front him in the German class, was dead. But until now,
it was just information. When her father rose from the row in front of
him, the reality of her death broke through.

Later, McCain asked to speak to O'Dell privately.

These meetings were always awkward at first, and for O'Dell,
guilt-laden. What could he say to someone whose child was dead when he
still lived?

Without fail, the parents recognized his feelings and absolved
him. "We're glad you're here," they would say. "You have a purpose."

If it's a parent of someone who died in Room 207, they often
want details -- anything to help them know if the one they lost suffered.

It started a week after the shooting, when he met with the
widow and parents of his slain professor, Jamie Bishop.

He also met with his classmate, Sean McQuade, who had no memory
of the shooting. It was O'Dell who first told him the details.

McCain asked some questions about his daughter and thanked
O'Dell, not only for speaking with him, but for what he did in Room 207.

He used a word that both makes O'Dell uncomfortable and eases
his guilt: hero.

Again he came back, again the bullets pierced the door. And
again the killer was thwarted.

Inside Room 207, they could hear the echo of gunfire fading
down the hallway. Minutes later, voices -- the police.

The police hurried them out, but O'Dell couldn't help feeling
he was abandoning those left inside. And where was the shooter?

They crept down the stairs to the front door of Norris Hall. A
police officer blasted a chain from the handles, and they were out.

O'Dell sprinted through the wind and snow, took six steps in a
single bound, hurdled a wall. The shooter could be anywhere out here.

They flagged a police car, were delivered to an ambulance,
which delivered them to the hospital. The ambulance doors closed and it
pulled away. Only then did he relax.

The first days back

"I might have to stop at some point," O'Dell warned the police

He wanted to know what the lieutenant could tell him. He
expected to see drawings of where the bullets came through the door. He
didn't anticipate a trip back into Norris Hall.

The lieutenant told him they would take it slow, so he agreed
to press on.

Like others, he had vowed not to be defined by what happened to
him. But he added a corollary: Let your response define you.

He returned to school Aug. 16 -- four months to the day after
the shooting -- feeling weak, vulnerable, unsure what school would be
like now. Would he be able to concentrate?

In his first days back, all the major network news
organizations interviewed him. So did several local affiliates.

Some people might look askance at his apparent thirst for
attention, he knew. But he didn't seek the interviews.

When a reporter asks for his help, he feels obliged to respond.

"He's gathering something from it," Hawley said.

He was changing, and it was not only the trauma that had done

He spoke up often now. He carried himself with confidence. He
felt it.

People around him had noticed it, too. The veterinarian he
worked for once worried about O'Dell's ability to communicate with pet
owners. Not anymore.

"This is not the old Derek at all," his father said.

O'Dell took his strength where he could get it.

Twice during the first day of classes, he returned to the arch
of stones memorializing the April 16 fallen. He prayed with them, told
them about his day. He told Bishop about the new German professor. He
asked them for strength.

He has largely forgiven Cho, and manages to forget him most of
the time, too.

Still, he has an urge to meet Cho's family and do for them what
the families of the dead have done for him so many times, to release
them from their guilt.

That might be a last step in O'Dell's own healing. In the
meantime, he had taken another major step.

He walked slowly by the lieutenant's side to Norris 207.

The door was brand-new. Inside, the room was pristine white,
sanitary. The lights gleamed, the walls shone.

He entered doing what came naturally. He told the story again,
every detail.

He was scarred, yes, but with the scars came a recognition of
something in himself he had not known before.

Don't be defined by the experience. Be defined by your reaction
to it.

He stood in the spot where he made his stand that day. No fear
rushed back to him, no weakness.

He felt strong, not only for the triumph of returning to that
spot, but because what he did there at that door showed him his
strength, revealed to him his courage.

"This," he thought, "is my conquering spot."

"Unlikely Ambassador" - by Beth Macy

Roanoke Times, The (VA)-August 19, 2007

The night of April 16, the poet sat staring at her computer.

She wanted to write a great poem, a message that would weave in
springtime in Appalachia and make the Virginia Tech community feel
whole again.

She wrote "We are Virginia Tech" in a single sitting. It was
sparse, simple, repetitive -- just 258 words.

When she read it back to herself that night, Nikki Giovanni
found it pedestrian. Not the symphonic elegy she had hoped for. She showed
it to no one, hoping inspiration might strike in the morning.

The next day came, but the words didn't. Had she been a student
in one of her own writing workshops, she might have snapped: "Ms.
Giovanni, I'm not finding a suitable metaphor here."

She didn't feel like her usual brave, vocal self. She felt

It didn't occur to Giovanni that what she had to say would soon
appear on T-shirts and billboards across the nation, as emblematic of
the Virginia Tech shootings as the self-portraits of Seung-Hui Cho
pointing his gun.

But Giovanni's words and her surging, passionate delivery of
them that afternoon gave people permission to grieve and to go on. And
they did something even more unlikely: They made the radical, outspoken
activist the voice of the conservative university.

Interviewed countless times since April 16, Giovanni, 64, isn't
through speaking yet -- about her former student Cho, about the
shootings, about the responsibility she and others have to keep asking the
question: What might we have done differently?

'I know who did this'

Even in her trademark suit and man's tie, the university
distinguished professor seems softer now. She still has her platinum-dyed
hair. She still has "Thug Life" tattooed on her arm in memory of Tupac

But Giovanni seems almost vulnerable, like someone who's spent
a lot of time under police protection, which in fact she has.

People are tense at Tech, she said, especially in the English
department, where some professors' lives were threatened in the wake of
the shootings. Giovanni herself wasn't released from police watch until
early July.

"I go into the bathroom, and I listen first to see who might be
in there," she said. When someone emerges from the stairwell near her
corner office at Tech, she listens to make sure the footsteps
continue on down the hall.

Though she normally takes the summer off, Giovanni regularly
went to her office this summer -- to be with her colleagues, to reaffirm
to herself that this was her place and her home. Not something that
Seung-Hui Cho could forever spoil.

It's been four months since her former student killed 32
students and faculty and himself, and people still stop to hug her in Kroger.
She finds herself standing in front of the Bing cherries with tears in
her eyes.

"People forget; it hasn't been very long," she said during a
July interview in her office, amid posters of Tupac, Bob Marley and
herself. "It's still incredibly sad.

"Right now we're still in the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other
mode. We're all still holding each other up."

She was in transit when the shooting began, having begged her
way onto the red-eye from San Francisco after a speaking gig. She
didn't hear about the rampage until her plane landed in Roanoke at 11 a.m.,
when a young woman sitting nearby checked her phone. "My God, there's
been a shooting at Virginia Tech," she said. An airport TV confirmed
that 21 were dead.

Driving to Blacksburg, Giovanni flipped her radio dial,
searching for news, but she could only find music. It reminded her of being in
Africa during a political coup, when the government radio switches to
music. "It was the worst feeling, it really was. ... It felt worse
than 9/11 to me."

A media truck from Roanoke flew past her on the interstate, and
eventually she found a newscast. The number of dead kept growing.

Somewhere on Christiansburg Mountain, it hit her:

We are Virginia Tech, and we are sad.

At home, she juggled three phone lines the rest of the
afternoon: friends calling to check on her, Larry King's people wanting an
interview, Paula Zahn's people wanting a quote. The victim toll kept

When Virginia Fowler, her longtime partner and fellow English
professor, arrived home later that day, police still hadn't identified
or described the shooter. But Giovanni didn't need them to.

"Ginney, I know who did this," she said.

'An evil presence'

By now, the creative writing workshop story is legend: Troubled
student refuses to participate, intimidates others and is removed from
class. English department chairwoman tutors him instead.

For the first half of Giovanni's fall 2005 semester, Seung-Hui
Cho came to class with an attitude that said: Leave me alone. He wore
reflective glasses so he wouldn't have to make eye contact. He wore
ball caps and pulled his sweat shirt hood tight around his face.

"I deal in emotional knowledge, I'm not a scientist," Giovanni
said. "To me, it was simple: Cho was an evil presence."

A few weeks into the semester, he wrapped a scarf around his
head -- "like Lawrence of Arabia," she said.

Giovanni describes it as a daily ritual, her pleas to get Cho
to participate in class:

"Mr. Cho, please take your glasses off.

"Mr. Cho, please take your cap off."

She remembers counting -- "ten-thousand one, ten-thousand two"
-- while Cho slowly removed the offending accessories. He was equally
obstinate about suggestions to revise his work.

"Mr. Cho, I'm not being able to identify any changes here,"
Giovanni recalled saying.

He mumbled his responses in monotone, she recalled, and
repeatedly turned in the same poem -- about women's panties -- without
changing a word.

Later, a class discussion about the ethics of eating turtle
soup inspired him to write a poem lambasting Giovanni. He ended it with a
veiled threat to eat the class.

"I don't know what to do with that one, Mr. Cho," she
remembered saying. "Mr. Cho, I think all of us took that as a threat."

Cho mumbled something about Giovanni missing the irony in his

When class attendance dropped markedly, she pulled another
student aside to ask what was going on.

That's when she learned that Cho was surreptitiously
photographing women below desk level. Giovanni considered that a violation, a
kind of rape. It troubled one student so much that she asked to meet with
Giovanni privately rather than face Cho in class.

Giovanni told Cho -- in front of the other students -- that he
needed to withdraw from her class or find another teacher.

He refused.

"Mr. Cho, this is not column A and column B. One of us must
leave," she recalled saying. "Mr. Cho, either you're gonna leave my room
or I'm gonna resign."

Again, a quiet monotone: "You won't resign."

"You do not, sir, know me well at all."

No connecting the dots

The rebukes never seemed to faze Cho, said Tracey Vaccarella, a
recent graduate who had three classes with him. "That gave you a very
odd feeling.

"There was maybe an undercurrent that he didn't get the
attention from girls that he wanted," she added. "He'd read his poems, and you
didn't know whether to laugh or what."

Halfway through the semester, Giovanni wrote then-department
chairwoman Lucinda Roy to say she would quit if Cho wasn't removed from
her class. Roy said she would tutor him one-on-one.

Some students thought Giovanni was overreacting, Vaccarella
said. But most were relieved when Cho left.

Giovanni wasn't really satisfied, at least not in retrospect.
"I was never asked about Cho again," she said, shaking her head. While
Roy reported the incident to administrators and the Cook Counseling
Center, "There was no connecting of the dots" between Giovanni,
counselors and higher-ups, Giovanni said.

That communication breakdown clearly weighs on her. She views
Roy's tutoring of Cho -- rather than kicking him out of class entirely,
or expelling him -- as a statement that "Nikki couldn't handle the

"Look at it this way," she said. "The car's stuck in the mud
and somebody else comes along and says, 'See? I got the car out of the

"Well, as it turned out, of course, the car had a bomb in it.
So maybe it should have stayed in the mud."

Roy declined to comment on the decision to tutor Cho.

"I believe that Nikki's energy and passion help to keep the
community strong," she wrote in an e-mail.

Giovanni recalls feeling very alone during that time, a sadness
exacerbated by grief over her mother's and sister's deaths earlier in
the year.

"Maybe I was patient with him for so long because I wanted to
make sure I wasn't neglecting him. ... Maybe if Mommy and [sister] Gary
hadn't died, my emotional state would've made me afraid of him."

Maybe then she'd have taken it to the dean herself.

Maybe if professors did a better job discussing troubled
students with one another.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. ...

Such what-if scenarios echo for everyone who crossed paths with
Seung-Hui Cho.

What Giovanni knows for sure is this: "We don't ask parents to
send their kids to school so we can send them back in a box.

"If there had been any way we could have stopped this from
happening -- and I mean any one of us, up to and including the professors
that took the bullets ..." Tears stream from her eyes.

"Every one of us ... would've taken those bullets if we could
have saved one student."

'Don't punk the president'

Giovanni hoped her voice wouldn't crack. It was the afternoon
of April 17, convocation day, and she wore her favorite black suit and
tie, her rhinestone Hokies pin, her mother's diamond earrings.

There was a sea of tearful students, looks of agony on their

There was President Bush, seated in the front row.

What would Giovanni say? Administrators were nervous, Giovanni
knew. After all, she'd flayed Bush many times in speeches and in
print. As she said on her 2002 Grammy-nominated compact disc: "I've always
felt free to complain about white people when they get on my nerves."

("Mercurial," is how Tech's lead spokesman, Larry Hincker,
described the poet. Asked if administrators were nervous about Giovanni's
performance, he chuckled and said, "I'll never be on the record about
that one.")

The president and the poet acknowledged each other with a nod.

But Giovanni knew this was no time for politics.

She had already crossed out the 22nd line of her poem: "Neither
does the Iraqi teenager dodging bombs."

It would appear in the later printed version, but she wouldn't
speak it today.

As Gov. Tim Kaine spoke and then Bush, Giovanni tapped her foot
in a steady cadence, a trick honed decades ago to help her nail the
rhythm of a poem.

She thought of the prayer Alan Shepard said as he was about to
become the first American in space: "Please, dear God, don't let me
[expletive] up."

She added her own line to the prayer: "Please, dear God, don't
let me punk the president off."

We are Virginia Tech

We are sad today

She had no idea she was being broadcast around the world.

We do not understand this tragedy

We know we did nothing to deserve it

She wanted to connect the world's grief with the students'

But neither does the child in Africa

Dying of AIDS ...

She jabbed her arm, waved her fist.

The cadence grew stronger, louder -- a crescendo wave of grief
and loss and conviction and hope.

We will prevail

We will prevail

We will prevail

We are

Virginia Tech

She dared the audience to believe anything less.

The performance was a contrast to everything that preceded it
-- the prayers, the news conferences, the panic that had gripped the
campus only one day before.

Giovanni wasn't sure she had nailed it at first. But when she
raised her arms in a shout-out to the people behind her, students began
to chant: "Let's go, Hokies."

As the chants grew louder, Giovanni spun in a circle, her arms
still raised. She pumped her fist in time to the clapping.

"Good job," Bush said, as they filed out of the coliseum.

Onward and unafraid

Hokies United, a student volunteer organization, raised more
than $200,000 for the Hokies Spirit Memorial Fund from sales of "We Are
Virginia Tech" T-shirts. Giovanni gave the rights to the poem to
Virginia Tech.

Strangers in airports who know nothing about her activism or
her civil rights poetry have approached her with, "Aren't you that
Virginia Tech poet?"

Giovanni's 10-year-old neighbor asked if she was famous enough
now to get him free football tickets on the 50-yard line. (She's
working on it.)

Not long ago, Tech alumnus Sam Scarborough stopped her near the
Drillfield to shake her hand. A teacher in Virginia Beach, he had
brought his wife and children to see the April 16 memorial, then under

"The day you got up on stage ..." he said, his voice cracking.
"I cry every time I think about it."

Friends have given her DVDs of the convocation, which she's set
aside. She hasn't been able to watch it yet.

One day soon she'll write the parents of sophomore cadet
Matthew La Porte, one of her favorite students. La Porte was killed as he
tried to grab Cho from behind.

"Matty had the typical boy problems -- he could be a goof-off
-- but he'd joined the corps and was really starting to settle in.

"He was just like a flower on the brink, the kind of kid you
could see being governor some day."

Even though summer's leaves block her from seeing it clearly,
Giovanni catches herself looking toward Shultz Hall, the building where
she taught Seung-Hui Cho. The blinds in Room 109 are drawn for the

"Being afraid of Virginia Tech is like being afraid of your
home," she said. "You just can't do that."

When she returns to Room 109, the blinds are going up.

Nikki Giovanni

n Born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni in 1943; reared in

n Educated at Fisk University.

n Emerged as a voice in the black arts movement of the 1960s,
heralded by some critics as the most read black poet in America and
the "Princess of Black Poetry."

n Author of more than 20 books, mostly essays and poetry,
including "Black Feeling Black Talk," "Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day" and a
children's book about Rosa Parks.

n The poems in her recent collection, "Acolytes," range from
odes to the singer Nina Simone to a meditation on the best midnight

n Joined Virginia Tech faculty in 1987, now one of 14
University Distinguished Professors.

n Called a "national treasure" by writer Gloria Naylor and a
"living legend" by Oprah Winfrey.

n Has one son, Thomas, a lawyer in New York City.

n Lives in Christiansburg with English professor Virginia
Fowler, two dogs and a pond full of fish.

n Wrote "We Are Virginia Tech" the evening of April 16,
inspired by the desire to convey that "what we do is more important than what
is done to us." At the next day's convocation, the poem brought a
somber crowd to its feet.