US campus mourns its dead


Summary

One man, seated by US President George W Bush, was overcome with emotion as he followed the ceremony at Virginia Tech, appearing to collapse and had to be helped from the vast hall.

Only hours earlier the families and friends of those killed learned the name of the killer, South Korean student Cho Sheung-Hui, who went on a murderous rampage on the campus on Monday, killing 32 people before turning the gun on himself.

"In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you," said President Bush, who came with First Lady Laura Bush to pay a sombre tribute to those slain at Virginia Tech University.

Mass mourning

Many in the 10,000-seat Cassell Coliseum wore the university's maroon and burnt orange colours to honour those slain, and as the poignant strains of "Amazing Grace" echoed through the hall, tears coursed down their cheeks.

Wreaths lined the podium as speakers from different religions joined President Bush and university staff in paying tribute to lives cut suddenly short in three hours of bloodshed.

The most rousing moment came when English professor Nikki Giovanni delivered the ceremony's closing remarks and called on mourners to unite in delivering the university's clarion call "Let's go hokies."

"No one deserves a tragedy. We are Virginia Tech. The hokie nation embraces with open heart and hand. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid," she said.

"We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness.

"We are the hokies! We will prevail. We will prevail. We will prevail," she said, as those gathered in the coliseum took up the call.

Anxious wait

Other distraught family members and friends were meanwhile maintaining an anxious vigil either at hospital bedsides, or searching for news of loved ones still missing after yesterday's massacre.

"They first told us that my daughter was in the hospital but when I went there last night it wasn't her and since then, nothing," said Grafton Peterson, of Centreville, Virginia.

He had had no news from his daughter, 18-year-old Erin, his only child. "I've been here since 4:00 am and no one has been able to tell me where she is," he added, choking back his emotion.

His sister, Mary Peterson, broke down in tears as she told of the family's frantic efforts to find out what had happened to Erin.

"We don't know if she's dead, alive, injured, we just have no idea," she said. "We've been here all night long."

Cho killed at least 30 people in four classrooms and a stairwell before turning the gun on himself. It is thought he was also behind the earlier killings of a man and a woman in a dormitory.

Community in shock

Counselling and psychological assistance is being offered at the university's conference centre, where a crisis unit has been set up, and hospitals have also set up special centres to deal with a flood of visitors.

"We're trying to limit visitors today because the patients need to recover. But we're not turning anyone away .. if they have a name and they have permission from the family, they can come visit," Scott Hill, spokesman for Montgomery County Hospital, told reporters.

Red Cross workers meanwhile have distributed pamphlets detailing how to help children cope with loss and offered soothing words to those grieving.

"Helping children cope with their loss will be crucial in enabling them to resume their lives more fully at home and school," one handout read.


One man, seated by US President George W Bush, was overcome with emotion as he followed the ceremony at Virginia Tech, appearing to collapse and had to be helped from the vast hall.

Only hours earlier the families and friends of those killed learned the name of the killer, South Korean student Cho Sheung-Hui, who went on a murderous rampage on the campus on Monday, killing 32 people before turning the gun on himself.

"In this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you," said President Bush, who came with First Lady Laura Bush to pay a sombre tribute to those slain at Virginia Tech University.

Mass mourning

Many in the 10,000-seat Cassell Coliseum wore the university's maroon and burnt orange colours to honour those slain, and as the poignant strains of "Amazing Grace" echoed through the hall, tears coursed down their cheeks.

Wreaths lined the podium as speakers from different religions joined President Bush and university staff in paying tribute to lives cut suddenly short in three hours of bloodshed.

The most rousing moment came when English professor Nikki Giovanni delivered the ceremony's closing remarks and called on mourners to unite in delivering the university's clarion call "Let's go hokies."

"No one deserves a tragedy. We are Virginia Tech. The hokie nation embraces with open heart and hand. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid," she said.

"We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness.

"We are the hokies! We will prevail. We will prevail. We will prevail," she said, as those gathered in the coliseum took up the call.

Anxious wait

Other distraught family members and friends were meanwhile maintaining an anxious vigil either at hospital bedsides, or searching for news of loved ones still missing after yesterday's massacre.

"They first told us that my daughter was in the hospital but when I went there last night it wasn't her and since then, nothing," said Grafton Peterson, of Centreville, Virginia.

He had had no news from his daughter, 18-year-old Erin, his only child. "I've been here since 4:00 am and no one has been able to tell me where she is," he added, choking back his emotion.

His sister, Mary Peterson, broke down in tears as she told of the family's frantic efforts to find out what had happened to Erin.

"We don't know if she's dead, alive, injured, we just have no idea," she said. "We've been here all night long."

Cho killed at least 30 people in four classrooms and a stairwell before turning the gun on himself. It is thought he was also behind the earlier killings of a man and a woman in a dormitory.

Community in shock

Counselling and psychological assistance is being offered at the university's conference centre, where a crisis unit has been set up, and hospitals have also set up special centres to deal with a flood of visitors.

"We're trying to limit visitors today because the patients need to recover. But we're not turning anyone away .. if they have a name and they have permission from the family, they can come visit," Scott Hill, spokesman for Montgomery County Hospital, told reporters.

Red Cross workers meanwhile have distributed pamphlets detailing how to help children cope with loss and offered soothing words to those grieving.

"Helping children cope with their loss will be crucial in enabling them to resume their lives more fully at home and school," one handout read.