The Virginia Tech Massacre: Impact and Responses

Categories: School Shootings

The tragic Virginia Tech massacre occurred on April 16, 2007, in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. Seung-Hui Cho, a senior English major at the university, carried out two separate attacks about two hours apart. He tragically killed 32 people and injured many others before taking his own life. This incident is considered the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in US history, whether it happened on a school campus or elsewhere. Before this devastating event took place, Cho had been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder and had received therapy and special education assistance during his middle and high school years.

However, due to privacy laws, Virginia Tech was unaware of his diagnosis or the accommodations he had received. In 2005, Cho faced allegations of stalking two female students and was declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice who ordered him to undergo treatment. Lucinda Roy, a professor and former chairwoman of the English department at Virginia Tech advised Cho to seek counseling. These attacks garnered significant international media attention and sparked widespread criticism of U.

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S. laws and culture.The incident sparked intense debates on various topics, including gun violence, gun laws, gaps in the U.S. mental health system, the state of mind of perpetrators like Cho's responsibility for college administrations' actions or lack thereof regarding such individuals' privacy rights as well as journalism ethics among other related issues. Television news organizations that broadcasted parts of the killer's multimedia manifesto received criticism from victims' families, Virginia law enforcement officials, and the American Psychiatric Association.

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In response to the massacre, Virginia took action to close legal loopholes that allowed mentally unstable individuals like Cho to purchase handguns without detection by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This led to President George W. Bush signing a significant federal gun control measure on January 5, 2008, which enhanced the NICS. The incident prompted condemnation from the Virginia Tech Review Panel towards Virginia Tech administrators for their failure to take necessary actions that could have potentially reduced casualties. The panel's report addressed issues such as reviewing gun laws, identifying gaps in mental health care, and privacy laws that contributed to Cho's untreated deteriorating condition while in college. The text includes information about the attacks, the perpetrator (Cho), responses from different entities including governments and South Korea (mentioned earlier), ongoing actions related to these incidents.The text delves into the impact of this incident on gun politics in Virginia, local and state laws, and political reactions. It also explores the legal consequences that ensued, offering references and external links for additional research.


The aerial photo displays the location of Norris and West Ambler Johnston Halls. The main article presents a timeline of the Virginia Tech massacre, which occurred at different places. Cho utilized two guns during the attacks: a .22-caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic handgun and a 9 mm semi-automatic Glock 19 handgun. The initial attack happened at West Ambler Johnston Hall, while the second incident unfolded at Norris Hall.

Cho was seen near the entrance to West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed residence hall that houses 894 students, at around 6:45 a.m. EDT. Typically, only residents can access this hall through magnetic key card entry before 10 a.m. It is unclear how Cho gained early entry. Around 7:15 a.m., he shot his first victims in West Ambler Johnston Hall. One of his victims, freshman Emily J. Hilscher, was fatally wounded while in her shared room with another student. An RA named Ryan C. Clark tried to help Hilscher but was also shot and killed. Despite surviving for a few more hours, there was a delay in contacting Hilscher's family after her death. Cho then left and went back to his dormitory room where he changed clothes, deleted emails from his computer, and removed the hard drive.

About an hour later, Cho was reportedly seen near the campus duck pond. Authorities suspected him of disposing his hard drive and cell phone into the water during their search but found no results.

Roughly two hours after the initial killings, Cho appeared at a post office near the scene and sent a package containing written materials and video recordings to NBC News. The package received an official stamp at 9:01 a.m.

Afterwards, Cho headed towards Norris Hall carrying various items in a backpack including chains, locks, hammers, knives, guns with nineteen magazines holding either ten or fifteen rounds each along with almost four hundred rounds of ammunition.

The tragic event known as the Norris Hall shootings occurred.

Following the initial shootings, students from an Elementary French class took shelter in room 212 of Holden Hall. Two hours later, Cho entered Norris Hall and specifically targeted the Engineering Science and Mechanics program. He used chains to seal the main entrance doors and threatened a bomb explosion if anyone tried to open them. At the same time, one of the faculty members found Cho's note just before the shooting began and brought it to the school's administration on the third floor. Meanwhile, Cho had already started shooting on the second floor without following through with his bomb threat. A 9-1-1 call was made shortly after the first shots were fired. Prior to the shooting, Cho looked into multiple classrooms which caused confusion among students. Erin Sheehan, a survivor in room 207, noticed him checking several times and found it strange that someone would be lost at this point in the semester. When Cho initially attacked Norris Hall, he targeted Professor G.V Loganathan's advanced hydrology engineering class in room 206 where he killed Professor Loganathan before continuing his rampage resulting in nine student deaths and two injuries in that specific room alone. Afterwards, Cho proceeded to room 207 where Christopher James Bishop was teaching German. Cho killed Bishop and four students, injuring six others. He then tried to enter rooms 211 and 204 where barricades had been set up by instructors and students. In room 204, Professor Liviu Librescu prevented Cho from entering forcefully but lost his life when Cho shot him multiple times through the door. During this incident, one student was injured as Cho reloaded and revisited multiple classrooms [17]. In room 207, several students barricaded the door and tended to the wounded when Cho returned shortly after. Katelyn Carney and Derek O'Dell were injured while trying to keep the door shut [22][23][24]. Cho also went back to room 206 where a wounded student named Waleed Shaalan distracted him from a nearby student. Shaalan was shot again and died [25]. In the same room, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan possibly shielded fellow student Guillermo Colman by diving on top of him. It is unclear whether this act was intentional or a reflex caused by being shot according to conflicting accounts from Colman. Lumbantoruan was killed but Colman was shielded by Lumbantoruan's body. When substitute professor Haiyan Cheng and a student saw Cho approaching, students like Zach Petkewicz barricaded the door of room 205 with a large table. Cho attempted to shoot through the door but failed to gain entry. Fortunately, there were no injuries to anyone in the classroom. Professor Kevin Granata, upon hearing a disturbance, swiftly led 20 students into a lockable office on Norris Hall's third floor. He went downstairs to investigate but was tragically shot and killed by Cho. Thankfully, none of the students in Granata's office were harmed. Approximately 10-12 minutes later, Cho took his own life by shooting himself in the head. Throughout his attack, he fired at least 174 rounds which resulted in the deaths of 30 individuals and injured 17 others. State Police Superintendent William Flaherty informed a state panel during the investigation that police discovered 203 live rounds inside Norris Hall, indicating that Cho had come well-prepared for his assault. In total, Cho killed five faculty members and 27 students before ultimately taking his own life. The Virginia Tech review panel's report also mentioned that an additional 17 individuals were wounded by Cho's gunfire. Six more people sustained injuries when they chose to jump from second-story windows while attempting to escape. Sydney J.Vail, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital's trauma center director, explained that victims' injuries were worsened due to Cho's use of hollow point ammunition during this tragic event.

The shooter at Virginia Tech was Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old South Korean citizen with U.S. permanent resident status. He lived in Harper Hall and was a student at the university. The Virginia Tech review panel extensively documented Cho's troubled history in a report that spanned over 127 pages. From an early age, he was described as shy, frail, and cautious of physical contact. Despite speculation from his South Korean relatives about autism, the review panel dismissed this claim and officially diagnosed him with severe depression and selective mutism in eighth grade.

During middle school and high school, Cho received intermittent therapy with support from his family and school officials. Although there were reports of bullying due to speech difficulties in middle school, the Virginia Tech review panel could not confirm this information. In his sophomore and junior years of high school, he received assistance from mental health counselors and school officials but chose to discontinue therapy.

When Cho applied to Virginia Tech and got accepted, the university did not disclose his speech problems or anxiety-related issues nor his special education status unless specifically requested by him due to federal privacy laws.

Seung-Hui Cho sent NBC News a photograph on the day of the massacre, showing his declining mental condition. The Virginia Tech review panel found evidence of abnormal behavior during Cho's junior year that should have been recognized as signs of his deteriorating mental health. Former professors reported disturbing writing and unsettling behavior in class, urging him to seek counseling. In addition, Cho was investigated by the university for stalking and harassing two female students. A special justice declared him mentally ill in 2005 and ordered outpatient treatment. The review panel blamed university officials for failing to share information due to misinterpretations of privacy laws. It also criticized Virginia Tech's counseling center, mental health laws, and state services for being inadequate. However, it concluded that Cho himself was the main obstacle to improving his mental health while in college. Speculation remains regarding Cho's specific psychological diagnosis at the time of the shootings. Nonetheless, his selective mutism could have indicated the onset of schizophrenia, characterized by "poverty of speech" or significant lack of communication participation.In addition, Cho's manifesto provides evidence of both paranoid and grandiose delusions, which are also associated with schizophrenia. Some argue that Cho may have had this condition. Initially, reports suggested that the murders were motivated by a romantic conflict between Cho and Emily Hilscher, one of his first victims. However, individuals who knew Hilscher stated that she had no previous connection to Cho and there is no evidence of them ever meeting or talking before the killings. As part of the subsequent investigation, authorities found a suicide note in Cho's dorm room containing references to "rich kids," "debauchery," and "deceitful charlatans." On April 18, 2007, NBC News received a package from Cho during the time period between the first and second shooting incidents. The package contained a 1,800-word manifesto, photos, and 27 videos where Cho compared himself to Jesus Christ and expressed his hatred towards wealthy individuals. Among other things mentioned in his manifesto was his statement: "You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option...You just loved to crucify me." Throughout all of this time, you took pleasure in implanting cancerous thoughts in my mind, instilling terror in my heart, and tearing apart my soul [52].Various media organizations, including Newsweek, MSNBC, Reuters, and the Associated Press, raised questions and speculated about the similarity between one of Cho's video poses - where he holds and raises a hammer - and promotional posters for the South Korean film Oldboy [53][54][55]. Oldboy is based on a Japanese manga that tells the story of a businessman who is kidnapped from his family and imprisoned for 15 years [53]. However, investigators did not find any evidence suggesting that Cho had watched Oldboy [56]. The professor who initially linked Cho to the film has also discredited his own theory [56]. According to the Virginia Tech review panel, Cho's inability to cope with stress and fear of facing adult challenges drove him towards a fantasy in which he believed he would be seen as a savior for those who were oppressed, downtrodden, poor, and rejected. The panel further stated that Cho's distorted thinking led him to justify his evil plan as something good, turning his destructive fantasy into an obsession [1] [edit].

Responses to the incidents See also: Media coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre [edit] Emergency services response Police took nearly six minutes to enter the barricaded building. When they could not break the chains, an officer shot out a deadbolt lock leading into a laboratory; they then moved to a nearby stairwell.[9] As police reached the second floor, they heard Cho fire his final shot;[9][35] Cho's body was discovered in Jocelyne Couture-Nowak's classroom, room 211.[33] In the aftermath, high winds related to the April 2007 Nor'easter prevented emergency medical services from using helicopters for evacuation of the injured.[57] Victims injured in the shooting were treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Radford, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Holston Valley Hospital in Kingsport, TN and Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem.[58] [edit]

University response

Before their 2007 football opener, the Hokies released 32 balloons as part of a ceremony honoring the victims. The university sent an email to students at 9:26 a.m., over two hours after the initial shooting, which was initially believed to be an isolated domestic incident. Virginia Tech then cancelled classes for the rest of the week and closed Norris Hall for the remainder of the semester. On April 17, an assembly and candlelight vigil were held, while counseling services were offered to students and faculty. The American Red Cross also sent crisis counselors to Blacksburg to assist students. Additionally, the university allowed students to shorten their coursework and still receive a grade. In response to the tragedy, the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (HSMF) was created by Virginia Tech. This fund supports various expenses such as assisting victims and their families, providing grief counseling, organizing memorials, covering communication costs, and offering comfort expenses. In June 2007, the Virginia Tech Foundation announced that $3.2 million was transferred from the HSMF into 32 individual endowment funds, each established to honor a victim of the shooting. This transfer ensured that each fund would operate indefinitely as a full endowment.The victims' families are collaborating on the development of the naming and determination of each fund's direction. By early June, donations to the HSMF had reached approximately $7 million. In July 2007, Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served as Special Master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, was appointed to administer the fund's distributions. In October 2007, the families and surviving victims received various payments from the fund, which ranged from $11,500 to $208,000. Additionally, in early June 2007, the university declared its plan to reoccupy Norris Hall within weeks. This building serves as offices and laboratories for the Engineering Science and Mechanics and Civil and Environmental Engineering departments, which were its primary occupants before the shootings. Nevertheless, the building will undergo a complete renovation over time and will no longer include classrooms. After the release of the Virginia Tech review panel report, some parents of those killed requested that Virginia's governor remove the university president and campus police chief from their positions. However, Governor Tim Kaine rejected this idea, stating that the school officials had already endured enough.

Virginia Tech students gather at a candlelight vigil to mourn the victims.

Virginia Tech's drillfield is now home to a permanent memorial. Initially, students of South Korean descent at Tech were concerned about being targeted for retribution. Although no official reports of harassment were made, some Korean students experienced negative effects. These tragic shootings took place when prospective students were contemplating college acceptances. However, Virginia Tech managed to surpass its recruiting objective of 5,000 students for the class of 2011.

The incident at Virginia Commonwealth prompted elected officials to review discrepancies between federal and state gun purchase laws. Governor Kaine responded by issuing an executive order to address these gaps. This event also led to the passage of a significant gun control law, known as H.R. 2640. The law requires better reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to prevent gun purchases by criminals and individuals with mental illnesses. It authorizes federal grants of up to $1.3 billion for these improvements, gaining support from both the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Rifle Association. The legislation was approved by the United States House of Representatives in a voice vote on June 13, 2007, followed by the Senate on December 19, 2007. President Bush signed it into effect on January 5, 2008.

On March 24, 2008, the U.S. Department of Education proposed changes to the regulations governing education records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). These changes address concerns raised by the Virginia Tech incident and aim to provide schools with clearer guidelines on balancing individual privacy and public safety.

[edit] [edit] Continuing response In November 2008, a chapter of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization was established in Northern Virginia. They named themselves Liviu Librescu AZA to honor the Holocaust survivor who bravely prevented Cho from entering his room. On September 4, 2009, the Marching Virginians, a 350-member band along with 20 cheerleaders and members of the Corps of Cadets color guard, made a 140-mile detour on their way to a football game against the University of Alabama. They performed at Lakeside High School, where Ryan Clark went to school, along with the Lakeside Marching Band and Evans High's band. This event was organized by the Central Savannah River Area Virginia Tech alumni chapter to pay tribute to Clark's memory and raise funds for a scholarship in his name.[100] Since the first anniversary of the attack, and continuing onwards, the Queens' Guard of The College of William and Mary, another public university in Virginia, has also been involved in commemorating this event.

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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The Virginia Tech Massacre: Impact and Responses. (2016, Mar 27). Retrieved from

The Virginia Tech Massacre: Impact and Responses essay
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