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THE SITUATION ROOM

Deadliest Shooting Rampage in U.S. History

Aired April 16, 2007 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And so there you have it.
The next news conference scheduled now for 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

We'll get more information at that time.

At this hour, shock and horror in the wake of the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

This is what we know so far.

The killing spree began early this morning, around 7:15 a.m. 7:15 a.m. Eastern. Virginia officials say 33 people were killed. That includes the gunman, who is believed to have acted alone. That's what they're saying.

Police also saying the gunman eventually took his own life.

His motive, though, not clear and he remains unidentified at this point.

The massacre occurred in southwestern Virginia, on the campus of Virginia Tech. That's in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The first 911 call was made at 7:15 a.m. Eastern from West Amber Johnson Hall. That's a coed dormitory. Two people were killed there.

Two hours later, with the campus in lockdown, authorities got word of more gunfire at Norris Hall. That's an engineering building, a classroom across campus, inside. Most of the bloodshed happened there.

Cell phone video captured the sounds of gunfire and the chaos.

I want you to watch and listen to this.

(VIDEO CLIP OF SHOOTING, COURTESY JAMAL ALBARGHOUTI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT)

BLITZER: We counted 27 shots in that one minute or so of videotape.

We're going to be speaking to the student who took that videotape, part of our I-Report series. We're going to get some specifics on what he saw, what he heard -- 27 shots on that little snippet of tape. The massacre comes as Virginia's governor is out of the country right now. He was to begin a two week Asian trade mission in Japan today. He'll be returning, though, immediately.

Governor Tim Kaine is joining us on the phone from Tokyo.

First of all, Governor, our deepest condolences to everyone at Virginia Tech. I know this is a university very close to you. You gave the commencement address there last year.

GOV. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: I did, Wolf.

It is a university that is a very, very wonderful and tight community. It has been hit by some tough -- tough circumstances this year. And today's tragedy is just absolutely awful for the whole Commonwealth.

BLITZER: You -- I assume you heard the news conference from the president of the university, the police chief there.

What can you add? what do we not know about these circumstances because there are still so many unanswered questions?

KAINE: Well, Wolf, there are unanswered questions and I think the university is trying to put -- put the things in the right order. The most immediate thing to do now is to make sure that all of the victims are identified and that every next of kin receives notification as promptly as possible. That is the first priority, and then dealing with those grieving family members and students.

I'm returning to campus so that I can be on campus with the students and family members and faculty tomorrow.

Obviously, the investigation as to the instance is -- is continuing. And I believe every few hours the university will obviously be briefing the press on what more they know.

The state police -- I received notice -- I landed in Tokyo and arrived on a trade mission to Japan and India at about 5:00 p.m. now last night and then was called at -- shortly after midnight about this instance and am returning home within the next couple of hours.

BLITZER: What was your immediate reaction, Governor, when they told you?

Because initially we were told maybe one person was killed. But then the numbers exploded. The latest numbers now released by the university, 33 people, including the gunman, dead.

KAINE: Well, when I was told, I mean it just -- my heart went out to the community. As your viewers know from the -- from your coverage today, the first day of school last fall, there was a very tragic incident dealing with an escapee from a local jail who shot a deputy sheriff and a security guard at a local hospital.

I went down and attended both of those memorial services and dealt with the university community and it was a very, very tragic thing.

The -- some of the incidents around the shooting happened on the Virginia Tech campus. And this -- this community has been through a lot.

So my first thought when I was called last night and given this news as just feeling very badly for the Virginia Tech community. It is a tight community with a great deal of spirit. They have been through a difficult time this year already. And that was the first thing that came to my mind.

BLITZER: There is no confirmation, no identification of this shooter.

Have you been told anything in general terms, what -- what he was doing, what he was trying to achieve, if there was a motive?

KAINE: Wolf, no, I do not have any more information than that. I've spoken with the -- with the head of the campus police. I've spoken with the state trooper who is in charge of the operation for the Virginia State Police on scene. I had two conversations with President Steger and then my own chief of staff has been in touch with the -- with me throughout the last six or seven hours.

And so -- but in terms of the identification of the shooter, I do not have any more information that I can share right now.

BLITZER: The president of the United States, President Bush, spoke out just a little bit -- a while ago, about an hour-and-a-half or so ago.

Has he been in touch with you? Is he making federal resources available for this investigation?

KAINE: Yes, Wolf.

The president called me. It's -- it's now 6:00 a.m. Tokyo time and the president -- and I was notified shortly after midnight. The president called me probably somewhere between 3:00 a.m. and -- 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. and we talked about this. And he, you know, both expressed his, you know, significant concern, but also indicated that he wanted to make available federal resources to the greatest extent he could.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms are already part of the investigation. And I very much appreciate it and I know that President Steger at Virginia Tech did, as well, the call from the president. We feel like we are getting good cooperation from these federal law enforcement agencies.

It is now a, you know, a cooperative law enforcement endeavor where you've got the Virginia Tech police, the local sheriff's office and town police, and then the Virginia State Police and these federal officials all part of the investigation right now.

BLITZER: And I know you're getting ready to fly back and go right to the campus of Virginia Tech. 2:00 p.m. Eastern they're scheduled to have, what, it's being called a convocation tomorrow?

KAINE: Yes, it's a...

BLITZER: I know you're going to be there for that.

KAINE: Yes, I am. It's a -- a gathering for all in that community who feel affected. It will, you know, be a, you know, a vigil, a chance just to share the pain and grief of this experience, but also to -- to make very plain that this is a community that is a very resilient community. And the grieving will be deep and it will not be quick. But there is no doubt in my mind that this community is a strong community and will -- will -- will persist through this and -- just as they in so many other instances.

But, yes, we -- we were here for this mission and part of the mission in India included some work with Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech offers some degree programs in India and they were part of the Indian segment of this delegation.

But it is very important that I be back on campus. And so, within a couple of hours, my wife and I are going to be getting on a plane to head back.

BLITZER: Governor, have a safe flight back.

We'll speak to you tomorrow.

An awful, awful situation happening on the campus of Virginia Tech.

We're watching it nonstop.

Governor, thank you very much.

Our deepest condolences to everyone on the campus, everyone in Virginia.

We'll be right...

KAINE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

At the scene, there is grief, there's shock, there is stunned belief.

Let's go to the campus of Virginia Tech.

Our Brianna Keilar is on the scene in Blacksburg, Virginia for us.

What have you been learning about this -- this incident?

There was that two hour gap between the first shooting in which two people were killed and the subsequent shooting in which, what, 30 additional people were killed, including another person who was -- apparently took his own life. That would be the shooter.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that's the resounding question here, Wolf -- why wasn't the alarm sounded in between those two shootings? Why wasn't that first shooting seen as a warning?

Speaking or listening earlier from the press conference here for Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, he said they really had to go -- police authorities had to go on the information that they had. And at that point, they believed the shooting in the dorm, where two lives were taken, they believed that to be, perhaps, a domestic incident.

They also believed it was an isolated event and they also believed the shooter had left the campus. They thought everything had sort of finished you, if you will, and there wasn't really cause for alarm.

And still, at this point, Wolf, they say they're trying to still draw a connection between that first shooting at the dorm and that second shooting at the engineering building, where 31 people were killed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All on this -- oh, unfortunately I think we lost -- there we are, Brianna.

Are you getting any information at all on the shooter, the individual who committed this horrendous crime?

KEILAR: No. At this point, police -- Virginia Tech police say that they are not able to identify the shooter. At this point they're in the process of identifying the shooter. He had no identification on his body.

BLITZER: Brianna, we're going to stay on top of this story with you.

Brianna Keilar is on the scene for us at Virginia Tech out in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Let's get some analysis of what we are gleaning from all of this.

Joining us on the phone, Gregg McCrary.

He's a former FBI special agent.

Greg, we've spoken often during these kinds of incidents. This is the worst shooting spree -- the worst shooting rampage in American history. You've heard what local law enforcement has to say, what the president of the university has to say.

What's your initial reaction?

GREGG MCCRARY, FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, obviously, I mean, certainly emotionally it's very shocking, even when you deal with this on a -- deal with violence on a routine basis. Something of this magnitude is stunning. And we don't know much. It's still trying -- they're still working and trying to understand exactly what occurred. But I think one of the important messages here is that, obviously, that is done. There's nothing we can do about that. But one of the things to be aware of is that in these nationally-publicized stories of mass murder, there is a contagion factor, and over the next few weeks we're at an elevated potential for having another sort of incident of some sort.

Now, I don't mean to sound like an alarmist on this, but this happens continuously. We see it workplace violence issues -- they happen in a cluster, and these school shootings tend to occur in clusters.

So, I think the most important take-home message right now for everybody else is just to be sensitive to this issue and to -- to report things up, or report any suspicions they have. An individual...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a second, Gregg. Are you talking about copycats? Is that what you fear?

MCCRARY: Yes. Yes, exactly, because there are people who are on the edge, who look at this as sort of a motivating factor for them to go over the edge. And it pushes them over and then they go ahead and act out on this.

So, anyone that is identifying with this or making excessive or intimidating references to this, or any other workplace violence or school violence, anything like that that makes people uncomfortable, they need to be sensitive to that and report that up.

BLITZER: Gregg, short of having metal detectors on college campuses, at dormitories, lecture halls, or getting on campus, what do you do in a situation like this? Anybody, a lone individual, deranged, or for whatever political reason or any other reason, just walks on a campus with a weapon and a bunch of clips, they could cause extensive death, as we've seen today.

MCCRARY: That's true. This is part of the risk of having a free and open society. Anybody can walk in to a shopping mall and do the same thing, or go in to any -- you know, any public area at any time.

And I guess the -- one of the things to take some heart in is that these are rare and unusual events. And even though they're rare, obviously the devastation is catastrophic when these things happen. But they're low probability, high sequence sort of events.

It's -- we can't live in a fortress society. No one wants to live like that. But I think the issue is back to identifying these people, troubled individuals, people who are paranoid or who are depressed, maybe delusional in some way. They need some help, and we need to be sensitive to our surroundings and people around us, and then report those concerns up.

BLITZER: Gregg McCrary, stand by. We're going to get back to you. MCCRARY: OK.

BLITZER: But joining us now is Jamal Albarghouti. He's the student who recorded that video earlier today.

Jamal, I know this must be extremely painful and difficult for you, tub tell our viewers where you were, what time this occurred when you started your camera rolling.

JAMAL ALBARGHOUTI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: That was around 10 to 10:00, around 9:50 a.m. here Eastern Time in Blacksburg, and I was just going to campus to talk to my adviser, but then I started hearing people telling me to leave. So I was on campus around 10:00.

BLITZER: What kind of camera were you using?

ALBARGHOUTI: It was my cell phone camera. I have a Nokia N70, and I was just using the cell phone camera.

BLITZER: And so what -- did you start hearing some -- some shots and you saw people running? Is that when you decided to start rolling video?

ALBARGHOUTI: Well, I took that decision when I saw a policeman drawing -- taking off his gun and started looking at -- looking for a target to shoot. I knew that this isn't another bomb threat, because we had two last week. So I knew this is something way more serious. It was then when I decided to use my camera.

BLITZER: We heard -- we counted 27 shots in the video that you made available to CNN through our I-Report operation, 27 shots. Do you know if those shots were coming from the gunman, coming from the police? Do you have any idea what those popping sounds -- where they were coming from?

ALBARGHOUTI: I have no idea. Thanks for counting them, Wolf. I didn't know there were 27 shots.

I thought -- to tell you the truth, I thought I was really safe. I thought they were far away from where I am. But then people started talking about shots that might have been inside the building. That might have been the reason why they weren't so loud. At the end of the video, if you can hear it, there is really a loud -- maybe it was a bang like a tear bomb or something that...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It sounded a lot louder. It was almost like a boom, the final shot that we heard.

ALBARGHOUTI: Yes.

BLITZER: There it is right there.

ALBARGHOUTI: Yes. That was the loudest one I heard. That was when I knew that I'm really close to a really serious situation. And there was a cop from behind me rushing towards me, telling me to just leave. This is when I stopped using my camera.

BLITZER: And we heard some screaming after that loud boom at the very end. What was that?

ALBARGHOUTI: That was the cop. There was a police officer coming towards me because I was trying to go closer to where the shooting was to take a better picture. But then I hear police officer run towards me and he told me to basically run back and leave.

BLITZER: So you were outside the West Ambler Johnston engineering building where these -- this mass killing occurred, 30 people -- no, no. Excuse me, that was Norris Hall. You were outside Norris Hall.

ALBARGHOUTI: Norris Hall.

BLITZER: That's the engineering building where most of the dead people were found.

ALBARGHOUTI: Yes, this is the case. That's where you can see -- Norris Hall is the building that is -- that you will see mainly on my -- oh, sorry. That you will see mainly on the video I was taking.

BLITZER: That's the engineering building. Did you know earlier that there had been a shooting at the West -- at the Johnston co-ed dorm earlier that morning at 7:15, two hours earlier, two and a half hours earlier? Had anybody alerted you to that?

ALBARGHOUTI: No. Actually, they did send e-mails, and it was on Virginia Tech's Web site, but I didn't have the time to actually check it. So I just went to campus without knowing that there was previous shootings on campus.

BLITZER: So basically you live off campus. You were going to your class. So you showed up, what, around 9:30, and then all of a sudden all hell breaks loose?

ALBARGHOUTI: Yes. It's really windy out here. Yes, sir. This is what happened.

BLITZER: What do you know about, if anything, about these chains that supposedly were on a door at the Norris Hall, the engineering building where, what, 30 -- 30 individuals were shot, including the gunman, who apparently took his own life?

ALBARGHOUTI: I didn't hear the first part of your question. Could you please repeat it?

BLITZER: Did you hear anything or learn anything about chains on the door at Norris Hall?

ALBARGHOUTI: No, but I saw the cops struggling to get in to Norris Hall. Usually that door -- I use it every Wednesday to go to class. And usually it's never locked.

Probably the reason why the cops were not rushing in to there is either that they were trying to open it, or that they were just trying to make sure it's safe to go in there. I did not hear or knew that there were any kind of chains blocking that door.

BLITZER: The reaction on campus -- you're an undergraduate, or a graduate?

ALBARGHOUTI: I'm a graduate student.

BLITZER: Are you an engineering student?

ALBARGHOUTI: Yes, I'm doing civil engineering. Construction management.

BLITZER: So tell us, give us a little bit of flavor of what your fellow students have been saying to you over these past few hours.

ALBARGHOUTI: Well, everybody here in Blacksburg is really sad. Blacksburg is one of the best and nicest towns I've ever been to. It's a really safe place. You can't imagine how safe it is.

And with two bomb threats and two people died in August, at the beginning -- at the very first day of -- at the very first day of this semester, and now more than 30 students, I guess, or 30 people got killed in this incident, everybody is so sad. Everybody is shocked. We don't what's going on in here.

We were just talking that everything would settle down and we -- and Blacksburg would once again be the small, nice town it used to be. But it actually is.

BLITZER: Jamal, where are you from originally?

ALBARGHOUTI: Well, I'm originally from the West Bank, Palestine. I lived most of my life in Saudi Arabia, though.

BLITZER: So this is very extraordinary for you to be experiencing here in the United States this kind of horrific event?

ALBARGHOUTI: Yes. Yes. You can imagine that I've been in cities where problems did happen in such cities, like I've been in Palestine, or I've been in Saudi Arabia. In Riyadh once there was a bombing in the Ministry of Interior.

But in Blacksburg, it used to be -- or it is a really safe town, indeed. I never though that such a thing would happen in front of me here in Blacksburg.

BLITZER: The Albarghouti family a very prominent family in the Middle East.

Jamal Albarghouti, thank you so much for doing what you did. Please be careful over there. Good luck to you. Good luck to all your fellow students at Virginia Tech.

Is there anything else you want to say to our viewers? ALBARGHOUTI: I just want to say how sorry I am for all of the families of those who got killed or injured in this incident. That's probably the only thing I can say.

BLITZER: Well said.

ALBARGHOUTI: And we are -- we are really sorry for them.

And thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jamal. Thank you for doing what you've done. You've helped all of our viewers better appreciate the enormity of what has happened on your campus today.

Thanks, Jamal Albarghouti. We'll be speaking with you. And please convey our deepest condolences to your friends and your colleagues, your fellow students on the campus.

Officials report, as we've been saying, 33 people dead, including the gunman who went on this massacre at the Virginia Tech campus. And as we've been discussing, much of the carnage unfolding in the science and engineering building. That's the building where you heard Jamal say he attends classes. It's called Norris Hall.

CNN's Carol Costello is joining us now.

Carol, what else can you tell us about this building which is never going to be the same again?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not. You know, Wolf, Norris Hall is huge, 72,000 square feet. Classes with stadium- style seating inside this building. There are administrative offices here.

When the gunman entered, kids taking class there, at least most of them, were completely unaware that hours earlier two people had already been killed on campus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice over): The carnage inside Norris Hall is indescribable. But this morning, for Tiffany Otey, a Virginia Tech student, it was a morning like any other. She, along with 18 others, were taken a test in Norris until they heard the gunfire.

TIFFANY OTEY, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: So we called 911 and the police showed up. And I'm outside. They were armed with guns.

We decided that we should probably go into a room that had a locked door. So we went in to a teacher's office -- there were about 20 of us -- and we were in a teacher's office and locked the door.

COSTELLO: They cowered inside, going online to figure out what was happening. Otey said she found out in an e-mail form Virginia Tech administrators someone had been killed two hours earlier at Ambler Johnston Hall. Then the gunfire at Norris intensified. OTEY: It was like a continuous gunfire going off. Like, every second or so, there would be another shot. And there's approximately probably about 50 shots total like that.

COSTELLO: Other students who were inside Norris described the scene as chaotic. Brandon e-mailing, "One of my friends was in one of the classrooms where the shooting occurred and the scene he described was utter chaos. It sounded like a scene from a movie, something that you watch but never expect to happen to you".

At some point police stormed in to Norris encountering that chaos and bodies. They didn't wait for paramedics, taking the wounded out any way they could.

Otey, still locked inside that classroom, heard that, too.

OTEY: At one point we did hear screaming because people were running out of the building. And at this point we were all kind of frightened as to wonder, like, what's going to happen to us.

COSTELLO: She and the others didn't have to wait long. Police in riot gear burst in to that locked office.

COSTELLO: They were telling us to put our hands above our head. And if we didn't cooperate with our hands above our head, like, they would shoot. I guess because they were afraid, like us, like the shooter was going to be among one of us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: In fact, Wolf, Tiffany said one young man didn't put his hands above his head. Police immediately pushed him to the ground and forced him to do so. Everybody in that locked classroom got out safely.

Tiffany lives off campus and, well, she is not looking forward to returning to class any time soon.

BLITZER: It's going to be a wake-up call to a lot of college campuses all across country. Carol, stand by. We're going to be getting back to you.

President Bush spoke about the Virginia Tech massacre almost two hours or so ago.

Let's go straight to our White House correspondent, Ed Henry, for an update on what the president had to say.

It was a very, very somber President Bush, Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

One of the rules of the commander in chief, as you know, in a time this, a time of deep national sorrow, is to try to pull the country together the way President Reagan did after the space shuttle disaster, the way President Clinton did after the Columbine massacre, as well as the Oklahoma City bombings. And that's what President Bush tried to do. He tried to strike the same tone in brief remarks in the diplomatic reception room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation is shocked and saddened by the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech today. The exact total has not yet been confirmed, but it appears that more than 30 people were killed and many more were wounded.

I have spoken with Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and their families and all the members of the university community who have been devastated by this terrible tragedy. I told them that my administration would do everything possible to assist with the investigation, and that I pledged that we would stand ready to help local law enforcement and the local community in any way we can during this time of sorrow.

School should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community.

Today our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts. We lift them up in our prayers. And we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, since the president spoke, obviously Virginia State officials have updated those numbers to say at least 33 have died in this massacre. Also, the president, to flesh out what he was saying about reaching out to state officials, he spoke to Governor Kaine. He also spoke to the president of Virginia Tech. Also, separate phone call from the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, to the president of Virginia Tech, offering all the federal assistance that the Bush administration can offer.

We already know that FBI officials from both Roanoke and Richmond have already been on the scene, as well as officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, trying to help with that crime scene -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Any indication, Ed, that the president will go to Virginia Tech tomorrow for that 2:00 p.m. Eastern memorial service? The governor, Governor Tim Kaine, is flying back from Japan to be on hand for that.

HENRY: No indication yet. Obviously, that's one event certainly the White House is weighing.

Typically in situations like this, although there's never been anything quite like this on a college campus -- but whenever there's some sort of a disaster or tragedy, the president, and this president in particular, tries to stay away in the early days, let local and state official do what they need to do. And then within a few days he usually goes, after they've had a chance to grieve, but also deal wit situation on the ground -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, thanks. We'll watch it, together with you.

Let's go up to Capitol Hill. Dana Bash has been monitoring reaction from there.

And there's some significant developments unfolding, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Because of the deadly event at Virginia Tech, Wolf, a much anticipated event that was supposed to happen tomorrow will now be postponed.

The attorney general was supposed to come and testify tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his role in those fired federal prosecutors. That has been postponed until Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Chairman, Patrick Leahy, just a short while ago, went to the Senate floor and said that he spoked to the attorney general, spoke to the ranking Republican on the committee, and said the country is mourning and grieving, that it would be more appropriate to do later in the week. The attorney general has put out a statement through his spokesman saying he was anxious but also understands that it's important to let the country mourn this terrible tragedy that's going on in Virginia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All sorts of statements, bipartisan statements from the leadership in the House and the Senate. They're getting together and they're speaking as one, Dana.

BASH: They are. A very -- we've certainly seen a lot of partisanship here in the past couple of months. Not on this issue today. Certainly not.

As soon as the Senate came in, Wolf, the Senate majority leader spoke, the Republican leader spoke. There was a moment of silence, then they followed suit over in the House as well. And we're also told that the delegation from Virginia is going to go down together to that convocation tomorrow at Virginia Tech.

BLITZER: Dana, thanks.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go back to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our senior medical correspondent. He's joining us from the CNN Center.

Sanjay, you're not there, so obviously you can only speak in general terms. But knowing what we know, that at least two dozen students and others have been injured, many of them presumably severely injured, this puts an enormous strain on the hospital, the emergency room, the resources around this campus. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. You know, there's a real protocol here, an orchestrated dance. When EMS sort of arrives at a scene like this, they have to start doing a triage right there at the scene. And, you know, it is gruesome sometimes, Wolf, but you have to sort of evaluate patients at the time, determine who is deceased, who is critically injured, who is seriously injured, and who has minor injuries.

Before they do that, they have to make sure that the area is safe, so that the EMS personnel themselves, the health care personnel aren't in danger. Subsequent to that, they basically call the hospitals, all the hospitals in the area, and basically say, here's what we're seeing at the scene. We have to determine what is available in the various hospitals in terms of operating rooms available, in terms of blood available, emergency personnel being available, and then patients start to disburse after that to the various hospitals.

Oftentimes the hospitals already to start to cancel elective cases so patients aren't going to the operating room for elective operations. They start to move patients that can be moved out of the intensive care unit out of the intensive care unit. So all of this starts to happen sort of at the same time, Wolf, to make more room for all of these patients as they hit all the hospitals at once.

BLITZER: Gunshots, they can be so devastating no matter what part of the body they may wind up in, these bullet wounds, whether they go to the head or the stomach, the chest or anyplace else.

GUPTA: Yes. And sometimes -- sometimes it can be tricky, because you don't know just how severe an injury might be. And that is why sometimes unfortunately you see the number of deaths increase throughout the day.

When you get these abdominal injuries, sometimes they cause severe bleeding if they hit one of the major organs in the abdomen that starts to bleed. That may be taking place. Certainly in the chest, you have the lungs and the heart. And then obviously gunshot wounds to the head require immediate attention as well.

When someone hits the -- hits the door of the emergency room, oftentimes they're evaluated clinically to see what their blood pressure is, what their heart rate is, what their state of consciousness is. Then they receive CT scans of the brain, of the abdomen, to try to determine the best next step. It is difficult, Wolf, to have that many patients in any city, at any hospital all at the same time. That is a lot of patients, and it's really going to tax the trauma system no matter how big it is.

BLITZER: What a horrible situation.

Sanjay, stand by. We're going to continue to check in with you.

The deadliest U.S. shooting ever unfolding over a period of several terrifying hours on the campus of Virginia Tech.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York.

Mary, walk us through how all this happened.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the killing spree began early in the morning before classes started. It involved two shootings hours apart from each other and at two separate locations.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES STEGER, VIRGINIA TECH PRESIDENT: At about 7:15 this morning, a 911 call came to the university police department concerning an event in West Ambler Johnston Hall. There was multiple shooting victims.

SNOW (voice over): Multiple victims, a campus in chaos. A four- story dorm on the Virginia Tech campus is under fire. But police are just getting their bearings when calls ring in from another part of the campus, Norris Hall. Not even two hours have passed and a classroom is also under attack.

MATT WALDRON, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: And everybody said that there were gunshots that came from the inside, and then, like, not two minutes later, people came pouring out the door with their hands up, and they were screaming and stuff like that. And I guess two kids had jumped -- jumped out of the windows.

SNOW: At 10:00 a.m., the campus newspaper's Web site says a gunman is on the loose. The university is in lockdown.

10:20: classes are cancelled.

10:32: the worst news possible. People are dead. It's unclear how many.

STEGER: There are multiple fatalities. The number of fatalities has not been confirmed. Victims have been transported to various hospitals in the immediate area, in the region, to receive emergency treatment.

SNOW: 10:36: police report the shooter is dead, but is there another one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I started walking towards my dorm, which is near Burruss, too. Along the way when I was on the other side of the Drill Field, I heard shots fired and I saw everyone running across the Drill Field. So I then immediately started running towards my dorm so that I could get into a safe environment.

SNOW: 12:18: reports are grim. There are at least 20 dead.

SCOTT Hill, MONTGOMERY REGIONAL HOSPITAL: At Montgomery Regional Hospital, there are 17 patients being treated for various injuries.

SNOW: 12:23: the shooting is officially over but the death toll keeps climbing.

CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: At this time we believe it is only one gunman, yes.

QUESTION: And where is that gunman?

President Bush spoke about the Virginia Tech massacre almost two hours He is deceased.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: Well, late today authorities said they had not identified the gunman, and they say he took his own life. One crucial piece of this timeline is the two hours between the incidents. Asked why university students were not alerted, officials said this afternoon that they believed that the first incident had been isolated -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thank you for that.

I want to check in with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York.

Jack, you've been watching all of the gruesome details. The gunman apparently kills himself. We may never know what motive he may have had.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: No, but it's just as well that he's no longer with us.

The question we asked last hour, Wolf, had to do with how today's events would impact the future of the school, Virginia Tech, in terms of things like future enrollment and that sort of thing.

Got a lot of mail from students, and a lot of the students who wrote attend Virginia Tech. Here's a sampling of some of those letters.

Eileen is a high school senior who said, "The Virginia Tech shooting will have a significant impact on the future enrollment at the school. I'm a high school senior right now, and if a college I plan to attend had an incident such as this happen I wouldn't go to that college. Virginia Tech's getting a bad image and future attendees will definitely think twice."

Cortney, who attends the University of Virginia as an undergraduate, wrote from Charlottesville, "Although I think it will have an effect on enrollment, I don't think it should. Americans, and especially college students, need to realize this could happen on any campus anywhere. Virginia Tech's not special, and people own guns and have problems everywhere."

Julia is a student at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. "I think enrollment for the school will be slightly reduced because of worried parents. I know of some incoming freshmen with parents who are paranoid and worried that something similar will happen in the future, and therefore don't want their kids to come to VT anymore, especially with the timing of this incident. Potential students are sending in their deposits for next year now, and they'll be rethinking whether they want to go to a school that has had this happen." Megan, who's a freshman at Virginia Tech, also from Blacksburg, "If the police force and the university officials had not made me feel so safe, I'd be filling out transfer applications right now."

Elizabeth, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, "I'm a graduate student here at Tech, I saw your question about whether or not people will want to return here. I'm not angry or offended by your question, and I for one am proud to be a Hokie. Tech has been home to me since the fall of 2002, and this place means more to me than any other place on the planet."

"This community's strong. We can bounce back. I still hope one day if I'm lucky enough to get married and have children that my children will want to come here."

Brian in Blacksburg, Virginia, as well, "I'm currently a computer engineering major at Virginia Tech. These sorts of incidents are so isolated, so coincidental, it could happen anywhere. This time it happened here at Virginia Tech. Despite everything that's happened, I wouldn't choose to go to any other school, and I still feel safe coming here."

Pretty good stuff, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, it's very impressive, Jack, that so many of the students were writing to you. Clearly, they're watching CNN right now, and they're expressing their thoughts.

Did you get a ton of e-mail from the students at Virginia Tech?

CAFFERTY: We got a lot of mail, and I was surprised at the large number that came from students there at the school. So obviously they've been watching CNN's coverage. They have lots of ideas about the events that happened there. And I was gratified to hear from so many of them.

It's interesting to hear their thoughts.

Most of them expressing confidence in the school, in the officials there, in the law enforcement community that has handled this. There is no way for you can plan for a psycho. And that clearly is the kind of thing that we're dealing with here, somebody who just went off the deep end, had access to probably a semiautomatic weapon, and committed carnage, the likes of which we haven't seen anywhere in this country before in terms of an isolated incident.

But the kids are strong, and college students are -- young people tend to be strong, and they've got their heads screwed on pretty straight. They understand this for what it is. And they're pragmatic and practical in their outlook going forward.

So, it was nice to hear from them. And, of course, you know, we wish them all well and hope that they can get on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.

BLITZER: And you know, Jack, there are going to be questions about gun control that are going to be...

CAFFERTY: We're going to talk about...

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.

CAFFERTY: We're going to talk about that at 7:00, Wolf. That's the 7:00 question in "The Cafferty File," is: What impact will this have in the debate over gun control? So we hope you'll watch for that.

BLITZER: We will. We'll be back with you at that time, Jack. Thanks very much.

Remember, we are staying on top of this story. Lou Dobbs is not going to go away from it.

The worst, worst mass shooting in U.S. history unfolded today at Virginia Tech.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

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