Return to Transcripts main page
Virginia Tech Campus Killings; President George W. Bush to Attend Ceremony
Aired April 17, 2007 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We learned the identity of the gunman and more about his 32 victims. These are the faces of some of those killed in the gruesome shooting spree. Their stories coming straight ahead.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We will also hear from the survivors.
Good morning again, everyone. I'm Tony Harris at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
What they saw and how they managed to escape the killers wrath. And the questions many are still asking today, did the university respond quickly enough as the crisis unfolded.
First, let us set the stage. Here's what we know.
The gunman is identified as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui. He was a South Korea undergrad who was living on campus. Also last hour, police confirmed that ballistics tests have linked one gun to both murder scenes. Police say they are working to confirm that the gunman acted alone.
Let us get you now to CNN's Jim Acosta. He is in Blacksburg, Virginia.
And, Jim, it took a while but we now have an identification of who police say was the shooter.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Tony.
Almost 24 hours went by before we had the answers to a lot of these questions, but just a few moments ago a press conference here on the campus of Virginia Tech, the president of the university, Charles Steger, along with the police chief. Also here, other officials from the Virginia State Police, the secretary of public safety for the state of Virginia, all here sort of showing a unified force in presenting this new information about this suspect.
The gunman apparently confirmed, 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korea, who was also what they called a resident alien. That means he was legally residing in this country but from South Korea. Apparently maintained a residence in Centerville, Virginia, that's in Fairfax County, right outside Washington, D.C., but was living in Harper Hall on the campus here of Virginia Tech.
As you mentioned, a .9 millimeter and .22 millimeter weapon, two weapons, collected related to this gunman. And one of those weapons apparently, according to lab results from the ATF, confirm that one of those weapons was involved in both shootings. But it sounds like, from listening to this press conference, that it was an abundance of caution on the part of investigators here as to why they were not saying definitively that, yes, these two shooting attacks are connected. They are saying at this point that it is now reasonable to conclude that this gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, was the gunman at both shooting attacks yesterday here on the campus of Virginia Tech.
One final thing, the person of interest. They did talk about that during the press conference as well. Identify that person, not by name, but saying it was an acquaintance of the female victim who was first shot at that first shooting in the first dormitory that was attacked yesterday morning. But again, here is that initial information that we received just an hour ago from officials here at Virginia Tech about the shooter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: Based on their hard work, we have been able to confirm the identity of the gunman at Norris Hall. That person is Cho Seung-Hui. He was a 23-year-old South Korean here in the U.S. as a resident alien.
Cho was enrolled as an undergraduate student in the senior year as an English major at Virginia Tech. Cho was in the U.S. with a residence established in Centerville, Virginia, and was living on campus in Harper Hall.
A .9 millimeter handgun an and .22 caliber handgun were recovered from Norris Hall. Ballistic tests on the evidence seized from Norris Hall and the West Ambler Johnston residence hall seized were conducted at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Lab in Maryland. Lab results confirmed that one of the two weapons seized in Norris Hall was used in both shootings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And we also have just received word from the Korean student association here on the campus of Virginia Tech because, obviously, now that this gunman has been identified as a South Korean, we wanted to reach out to that community. And a woman from that organization, a Virginia Park (ph), just called us back and said that there are 300 Korean undergraduates here on the campus of Virginia Tech. And she told us over the phone that she cannot believe what has happened here saying, "I can't believe it, but that we have no ill feelings towards this situation from the Korean population."
So that's the situation from here, Tony. Lots of shock. People still just can't believe what they're hearing when they hear that this was a student, somebody that they knew on this campus, who was responsible for all of this carnage.
HARRIS: Yes. Many questions still are out there, Jim, but we'll leave it there for right now.
Jim Acosta for us in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Jim, thank you.
COLLINS: Back live now here on the campus of Virginia Tech. And we want to take a moment to welcome our viewers from around the world watching on CNN International as well as we offer this to you.
Officials still have not released the complete list of those killed in yesterday's massacre, but we do know about five of them. Just a short time ago, in fact, we learned Matthew La Port (ph), a freshman from Dumont, New Jersey, is among the dead.
Also Ryan Clark, a 22-year-old senior from Martinez, Georgia. Clark's brother says he was a resident advisor in the dormitory where the shooting first took place. That would have been West AJ that we've been telling you about. Clark was a triple major, psychology, biology and English. He was killed in the engineering building, Norris Hall.
Ross Alameddine, a student from Saugus, Massachusetts.
G.V. Loganathan, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.
And Liviu Librescu, a professor of engineering, science and mechanics. He is described as an Israeli-born Romanian who was internationally known for his research in aeronautical engineering.
So there you have some of the names of the people who were killed in this massacre. We do very much apologize for any pronunciation mistakes as we are getting this information coming into us and trying to get it to you as soon as possible.
One of the students being called a hero this morning for bravery during yesterday's massacre, Zach Petkewicz. He helped hold off the gunman trying to come into his classroom. And CNN "American Morning's" Kiran Chetry talked with him this morning. Here's that emotional account.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZACH PETKEWICZ, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: After the initial gunshots, I heard a scream. I didn't know if the gunshot -- I didn't know if it was gunshots at first until I heard that scream and it all kind of sunk in. As soon as we heard that scream, two of the girls in my class peeked out in the hall and saw a gunner come out of a classroom with his gun pointed down. They immediately slammed the door shut, told us, everybody kind of went into a frenzy, a panic.
I hid behind the podium and then just kind of looked up at the door and just like -- there's nothing stopping this guy from just coming in. And so I said, we need to barricade this door. Me and two others got up, threw a couple tables in front of it and had to physically hold it there, while there's gunshots going on.
He came to our door, tried the handle, but he couldn't get in because we were pushing up against it. Tried to force his way in. Got the door to open up about six inches and then we just lunged at it and closed it back up. And that's when he backed up and shot twice into the middle of the door, thinking we were up against it, trying to get him out.
And I was right -- I was up against the side holding this desk up against there and I just heard his clip drop to the ground. He reloaded. And I thought he was coming back for a second round to try and get his way in there. And, I mean, he just -- he didn't say a word and he just turned and kept firing down the hall and didn't try to get back in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: You can only imagine what must have been going through their minds when something like that was happening. And to hear him talk, boy, it just really gives you a sense of the sheer terror that these students and faculty were feeling yesterday.
We want to take a moment to go to Suzanne Malveaux now standing outside, I believe, the White House.
Suzanne, we know that the president will be coming to Virginia Tech today. There's a convocation at 2:00 p.m. He'll be joined by the first lady to provide some words of comfort for the faculty and the students here at Virginia Tech.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right.
I mean, this was a decision that required a lot of discussion from the White House, as well as local and state authorities. They were very concerned about the logistics, whether or not the president would get in the way of what is taking place there. But ultimately they felt the magnitude of this tragedy, that it was very important that the president offer his condolences and try to bring the country together. The president just ordered that all federal flags be flown at half staff until sunset on Sunday.
He will leave the White House in a couple of hours or so and he's going to be taking Virginia's governor, Tim Kaine, and his wife, who have been just return from Japan, to go to the memorial service with him aboard Air Force One. He will make brief remarks about -- in that program about five or six minutes in length. We don't even know where the remarks are going to be made in the program. They're still saying it's very last minute, that have to be worked out on the ground. The president is also going to be talking to some network anchors who are there on-site after the memorial service before returning here to the White House about 6:00.
To let you know, there are a lot of things that are going on on the ground regarding federal staff and support teams. You have about, we are told, 12 agents from ATF, 15 agents from FBI, all of them involved in the investigations, in the ballistics. There's also the FBI's Office of Victims Assistance that's on the ground to help with counseling the students and the families, as well as the secretary of education. Spellings has reached out to the college community to see if there's something that they can work together to try to offer support for those students.
And lastly, should let you know, obviously, there's going to be a big debate about gun control and the laws and whether or not they're stiff enough, specifically in Virginia. But Deputy Spokesperson Dana Perino saying this morning this is not the time to talk about this. They are not going to debate that issue today. Today is a time of mourning and reflection. The president offering his condolences and support to the community.
COLLINS: Well, I imagine, Suzanne, it's something that will certainly help, at least in the short term, to have the president here today. And we know that the president of Virginia Tech certainly welcomed him and said it would be nice to have him here. And so we will wait for that. Suzanne Malveaux from the White House today. That convocation coming our way once again at 2:00 p.m. today.
HARRIS: All right, Heidi.
Students in Norris Hall watching, listening as horror unfolded. Tina Harrison, one of them. She's on the phone with us now.
Tina, good morning to you.
TINA HARRISON, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Good morning. How are you?
HARRIS: I'm great. The question is, how are you? Has the gravity, the magnitude of what happened on your campus, with you in close proximity I might add, has that sunk in?
HARRISON: It actually -- it sunk in just this morning. I've gone through many stages of emotions and right now I'm just angry. I'm very angry.
HARRIS: Tell me about your anger.
HARRISON: Well, I was in Norris Hall. I was on the third floor taking a test when we heard gunshots. We weren't sure what it was at the time. And we've got a construction -- there's a lot of construction going on.
But then when I heard screams, it was horrible. They were just horrible screams, screams of agony. And then some sort of maniacal (ph) laughter the first minutes of the fire -- of the shots being fired. And when we finally realized what was going on, a girl had taken her test and turned it in and had come running back up the stairwell saying that she saw someone was shot, she saw someone jump out of a window and there's a gunman down there. And she came in the room.
And immediately we're panicked and we called 911. I don't know if it was our 911 call got in. And we realized that he was coming up the stairwell. We heard the gunshots getting closer and closer. Like I counted 24 shots within one minute. And we could smell the gun smoke, we could feel the vibration of the smoke, we could feel it shaking the wall of the building.
And our door wouldn't lock. We couldn't get the door to lock. So one of our students, I guess a member of the corp of cadets, led us into I guess a small office and locked the door and the professor was with him and they barricaded ourselves in there.
We heard -- what we heard was horrible. There was just so many gunshots and people screaming. And it was like -- it was hell. It was basically what hell would be like.
HARRIS: Let's sort of take this apart for a moment, Tina. First of all, there was a student who had finished her test, had left the classroom but came back up stairs in essence to warn you?
HARRISON: To warn us, yes. To let us know that something was going on. She saw someone get shot.
HARRIS: All right. But at that point, you had heard the gunshots, correct?
HARRISON: We had already heard the gunshots. We didn't know what was going on. We thought it was some sort of construction. See (ph), a lot of construction's close by near Norris, or experiments going on. But we thought it was odd that it was shaking the building. And we heard some sort of screams.
HARRIS: Tina, if you would, again, in as much detail as you can remember, describe the sounds, describe what you heard in the -- on the floor below and then describe for us what was going on in your room when it became clear to you what was happening.
HARRISON: We heard lots and lots of gunshots. It was -- it was more than -- more than 100 shots were fired, I think. Many, many gunshots. We heard horrible screams. Terrible screams. We heard laughter. That's the first thing I noticed is I heard laughter. And I was thinking, why is someone laughing hysterically downstairs. It didn't all hit me at once what was happening. But it was horrible. I will never forget that as long as I live, that laughter.
And in our classroom, we -- it was just panic. People were calling people, telling people not to come on campus were calling (ph). I called a friend of mine who had taken the test and had left right before that girl did to make sure he was OK. No one knew what to do. It was basically mass panic in our room about what to do.
HARRIS: All right. So, Tina, who took control of the situation?
HARRISON: It was the professor and a corps of cadet students. And the student's name was (INAUDIBLE) and another student's name was David -- I don't know his last name -- but he -- both, three of those, the professor and the two students, basically led us to an office, a smaller, secluded office and locked the door and barricaded themselves against the door to protect all of us. There was 20 -- at least 20 of us students in were in that small office.
HARRIS: Did you ever make a visual contact with the shooter? Did you ever see the shooter?
HARRISON: No, I never saw the shooter. I heard the shooter and I heard everything that happened. I never made a visual contact with him.
HARRIS: OK. Did the shooter ever try the door of the room that you were all inside?
HARRISON: No, he did not try the door. He was stopped, I believe, on the stairwell. We heard him coming up the stairwell. We heard people being shot on the stairwell, which is very close to the room we were at. And then it all became very quiet. I have no idea what happened after like -- after all the shots -- of all the shots stopped and became deathly quiet. And then a S.W.A.T. team, about two minutes after the silence, the S.W.A.T. team kicked our door down and I guess ran us -- like literally held us at gun point and had our hands in the air and told us to run as fast as we could out of the building.
HARRIS: Did the S.W.A.T. team member identify himself, herself, before kicking the door in? And, if not, what was that moment like when the door was kicked in?
HARRISON: I don't believe the S.W.A.T. team member identified themself. I just -- I thought that was it. I thought that was the gunman. So when they saw us all -- because guns were pointed at us when the door was kicked down. But there was at least five S.W.A.T. team men around the door, so I figured -- I realized after a minute, after half a second what was really happening. That they were here getting us out of the building.
HARRIS: Who did you -- who did you reach out to first?
HARRISON: I called my father and then I called my mother and then I called my sister. And I thought it was it. I left them messages. I told them that I loved them and that I didn't know what was happening but I loved them.
HARRIS: Have you sought help? I understand that there are counselors on the campus available to you. Have you sought help?
HARRISON: No, not yet, but I believe I'm going to get breakfast here and then go head into campus. I left after that incident yesterday. I left. I went to Roanoke. I couldn't be anywhere near Blacksburg.
HARRIS: And your thoughts today, victims found in four classrooms and a stairwell. Again, it's a question to the gravity of the situation.
HARRISON: Yes, he was very close to us. And I'm so happy that I'm OK. And I feel for the victims and their families. And it's horrible. And I'm angered now. I'm very angry that something like this happened. And that it could have been prevented, I think.
HARRIS: How so? HARRISON: I feel like there should have been an e-mail sent out or some sort of notice sent out that there was a shooting in the West Ambler Johnston earlier that morning. Regardless if they thought it was an isolated incident, I feel like the students should have known and classes should have been canceled without actually apprehending the first gunman to make sure that it was the same person. So I feel like something should have been done, we should have been notified.
I thought -- you know, ironically, I got that e-mail -- I checked my e-mails after I got back from Roanoke last night and the e-mail sent at 9:23. The shooting started about 9:35, 9:40. So I think it's ironic that they sent the e-mail a little too late.
HARRIS: OK. One final question. Are you OK?
HARRISON: I am OK. I have -- I'm OK now. It was just a very horrible experience.
HARRIS: All right. Tina Harrison, a student in Norris Hall at the time of the shooting there.
Tina, thanks for your time.
HARRISON: You're welcome.
HARRIS: Heidi, back to you.
COLLINS: A quarter past the hour now. We want to go ahead and get you updated on today's new developments in this situation.
The gunman is identified as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui. He was a South Korea undergraduate who was living on campus. Also last hour, police confirming that ballistic tests have linked one gun to both murder scenes. Police say they are working to confirm that the gunman acted alone.
Also we want to take a moment now to get you some sound coming our way from Virginia Senator John Warner. Let's go ahead and listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R) VIRGINIA: I think at this point in time that the comments should be limited to the president of the university, the students and President Bush as they attend. Senator Webb and I are simply going to be joining silently to express our profound sorrow to the families and to the whole university family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Seventeen shooting victims in the hospital this morning. An ER doctor overwhelmed by the magnitude of this atrocity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. JOSEPH CACIOPPO, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: The this man was brutal. There was no -- there wasn't a shooting victim that didn't have less than three bullet wounds in them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: The wounded, a live report coming up in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: A tragedy like the Virginia Tech shootings inevitably triggers the gun control debate. We'll take a look, coming up in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Good morning once again, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins on the campus of Virginia Tech, one day after the horrible events of yesterday.
I want to bring in CNN's Brianna Keilar now. She is in Blacksburg with me.
A little bit more on the victims that we are learning about. So hard to see those names and yet I think it helps people to understand what has taken place here. When you start hearing names, you start thinking of people and their faces.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You start realizing that someone was a triple major or you start realizing what a bright future they had ahead of them and it really -- it just does put a personality to one of these -- some of these names. And, of course, we've learned several of these names at this point. But officially the university is not releasing those names. They were hoping to have a list to release today, but at this point the state medical examiner's office still has a handful of victims who haven't been identified and so they're expecting it to take days before they can release that list.
Now the man who's really been the face of the university, President Charles Steger, throughout this entire ordeal, said that his thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims. He is assuring people that they're doing all they can to move forward. And it appears one of those things is taking a break. He has said that classes at Virginia Tech have been canceled for the rest of the week. Of course, not really a surprise because many students have headed home. But also the site where the second shooting occurred won't reopen for quite some time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES STEGER, PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: We will close Norris Hall for the remainder of the semester. Staff are currently working to arrange alternative locations for the classrooms and for faculty offices. Counseling and other resources are available for students, faculty and staff and students may receive counseling at McComas Hall and counselors will be available for extended hours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Coming up at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, we're also -- there will be a convocation. Essentially this is a vigil. The president of the school, Charles Steger, said this will really be the first gathering for people to share their collective sorrow. We understand President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, as well as Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine and his wife will attend.
COLLINS: Yes. And, you know, we had an opportunity to speak with some of the students now and try to find out from them as we hear these victims names and we learn more about those kids and their fellow students that they lost, how they feel about the gunman also being a fellow student. And it seems like that was part of the worse news in all of this. Because of how tight -- and I'm sure you've noticed it -- this campus and these students are.
KEILAR: And one of the things that I've heard over and over from different people at different times, they've said they're baffled. It only takes one person to cause something like this. This is the work of one person, or so they believe. Of course, police at this point not committing to that. But they say it's reasonable to assume. They're just waiting for the evidence to back that up.
But students just amazed. This is, obviously, a campus where I understand people in their dorms, they leave their doors open when they go to classes. People don't lock their cars in this town. And they're just amazed that this happened because of one person here.
COLLINS: And yet they'll also tell you, which I think is a really -- good and strong part of it, is that they are more determined than ever now to stay tight, stay close, stay focused and get into that healing process right away and as soon as possible. We'll see more of that as the day goes on at the 2:00 convocation. Also the candlelight vigil that we learned from the student body president here at Virginia Tech will take place later on tonight.
And, Tony, as you know and as you've heard here, 40,000 people are expected to attend that. So CNN's Brianna Keilar, thanks for your report too.
KEILAR: Of course.
COLLINS: Tony, back to you know.
HARRIS: OK. Brianna, Heidi, thank you.
Let's get you to CNN's John Zarrella. He is at Montgomery Regional Hospital -- that is in Blacksburg, Virginia -- where 19 victims were treated.
And, John, there was a briefing just about two hour ago now and some of the news that came out of that briefing was, frankly, heartening. JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Tony. Exactly. You know, amidst all of the horrific events here yesterday, the incredible work done here by the emergency room staff and the doctors. And the CEO, Scott Hill, came out a couple of hours ago and updated the conditions of the people here and at the other hospital that they are responsible for. And, in fact, did have some much better news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT HILL, MONTGOMERY REGIONAL HOSPITAL: Twelve of the patients from yesterday's shooting remain at HGH2 hospitals, including Montgomery Regional Hospital and Lewis-Gale Medical Center. All are in stable condition.
We have nine patients here at Montgomery Regional Hospital. Three of those were critical last night. They've been upgraded to stable as of this morning. And at Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem, they have three patients remaining. All are in stable condition. One is expected to be discharged today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZARRELLA: Now Hill said that initially when they began to get information, that they were going to have a major number of casualties coming. They declared a code green, which is their disaster action plan they put into effect. They, in fact, performed four major surgeries here yesterday, two minor surgeries. None overnight.
Now earlier this morning on the "American Morning" program, an emergency operating room doctor came out and spoke to the gravity of what he saw coming through the emergency room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JOSEPH CACIOPPO, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, the injuries were just amazing. This man was brutal. There wasn't a shooting victim that didn't have less than three bullet wounds in them. Even, again, the less serious injuries, we saw one patient that had a bullet wound to the wrist, one to the elbow and one to the thigh. We had another one with a bullet wound to the abdomen, one to the chest and one to the head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZARRELLA: So you can see from the graphic description from that emergency room physician here just what they were dealing with, Tony, as these great number of injuries came in. Even what you would say were the minor injuries were far from minor.
HARRIS: Was there a point at which, John, when the staff felt a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume?
ZARRELLA: Well, yes, for a while there they did call in some other additional resources. They called in some other doctors who were not on staff. But, they said, that Scott Hill had told us earlier, in fact, late last night, that for the most part they were able to handle everything that was thrown at them with the doctors they had, plus some additional doctors that were called in, staff doctors here.
HARRIS: And there was a lot thrown at them. Those words are chilling here from the doctor, the shooter was brutal.
HARRIS: John Zarrella for us this morning.
John, thank you.
And when we come back, we will speak with a clinical psychologist for some insights into the mind of a mass murder. That's coming up in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Dealing with tragedy. How Virginia Tech students are coping hours after the rampage. That story for you in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: ... into the mind of a mass murder. That's coming up in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Dealing with tragedy, how Virginia Tech students are coping hours after the rampage. That story for you in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. We are live in the Virginia Tech campus. New details in the last hour about the gunman. Virginia Tech's police chief says the shooter has now been identified as 23-year-old Korean national Cho Seung-Hui of Centerville, Virginia. He was born -- was in the U.S. as a resident alien. He was an English major in his senior year at Virginia Tech. He was living in Harper Hall dormitory. Originally there were some reports of him being at West A.J. where the first shooting occurred. That is not true. He did not live there. He lived in Harper Hall dormitory.
Authorities are still notifying relatives of those who were killed in yesterday's massacre, and a complete list is not available. What we do know is the names of five of those victims. We want to give them to you now the best that we can here. Ryan Clark, a 22- year-old senior from Martinez, Georgia. Clark's brother says he was a resident adviser, an R.A. in the dormitory where the first shooting took place. Clark was a triple major in Psychology, Biology and English. He was killed in the engineering building. Ross Alameddine, a student from Saugus, Massachusetts. And G.V. Loganathan, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. And Liviu Librescu, a professor of engineering, science and mechanics. He is described as an Israeli-born Romanian who was internationally known for his research in aeronautical engineering.
And just a short time ago we also learned of Matthew Lacourt (ph), a freshman from Dumont, New Jersey. He was also killed in the engineering building.
Tony, now back to you.
HARRIS: OK, Heidi. Coping with disasters, counselors are available to students at Virginia Tech, but healing will take some time.
Joining me now from Blacksburg to talk about the next steps for the students, clinical psychologist Dorinda Miller.
Dorinda, good to see you. Can you hear me OK? Dorinda, can you hear me okay?
DORINDA MILLER, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Now I can hear you, yes.
HARRIS: Now you can hear me. OK, Tony Harris with you from Atlanta.
Just curious, what is it that you hope...
MILLER: I'm sorry, I can't hear him.
HARRIS: You can't hear me now?
Dorinda, Let me know when you can hear me.
MILLER: I'm sorry, I can't hear you.
HARRIS: You still can't?
All right, I'm going to talk for a bit longer and let me know when you can hear me. Dorinda, one of the things that I've been doing with the young people who have been able to reach out to us and we've been able to talk to -- someone give me a heads up when Dorinda can hear me -- is I've been asking the question of whether or not the gravity of the situation has began to -- we don't have her? It's not resolved.
All right. OK. We will take a bit of a break and try to make that connection with Dorinda Miller, the clinical psychologist there in Blacksburg, Virginia.
But still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, a routine school day interrupted by horror. The Virginia Tech students and professors who lost their lives. Their stories coming up in the NEWSROOM. And these flags tell the story today, a day to grieve on the Virginia Tech campus. President Bush among the mourners. Details coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: One of the victims of the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech yesterday was Ryan Clark, an R.A., resident advisor, on the campus. And just a short time ago we received some sound, a brief interview with his twin brother, Bryan Clark, remembering his brother. This courtesy of our affiliate in Augusta, Georgia, WJBF. This is Brian Clark talking about his brother Ryan Clark from Martinez, Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYAN CLARK, RYAN CLARK'S TWIN BROTHER: I had thoughts of it the same thing that happened earlier in the year, 2006, when classes first started about the shooting. You know, he turned out to be fine and you know, we had a good laugh about it. Things like that. But as I was watching the news they mentioned west A.J. where he's a resident advisor. At that point your heart just kind of drops out of you and you begin to speculate and wonder. That's pretty much when the search and the phone calls started as to what's going on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: That was Bryan Clark, the brother of Ryan Clark who was killed -- well, in the dormitory yesterday on the campus of Virginia Tech. Let's talk to our clinical psychologist who we believe we have right now. Dorinda Miller.
Dorinda, can you -- you're smiling, so you can hear me OK?
DORINDA MILLER, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: We sure can. Thanks.
HARRIS: All right, Dorinda, thanks for your patience with us this morning as we worked out technical issues.
Dorinda, I'm just curious as to what it is that you hope to do, the kind of service, the kinds of words you hope to provide that might provide some comfort to the student body there on campus.
MILLER: Well, certainly our first goal is to help those families that have lost a family member or classmates who have lost a fellow student, people who have lost -- somebody that they love. So getting those people taken care of in the best way that you can possibly help them through a very rough time. The second --
HARRIS: Dorinda, what does that mean? And I'll let you get to the second point in a moment but what does that mean -- is that, I would imagine as much as offering words is important, it seems to me that listening might be equally and maybe more important.
MILLER: Oh, we do much more listening than we do talking. And that's our goal, is to listen to people tell their story, to help guide them in the direction of finding their own resiliency so that they can move through a very painful process in the best way that they possibly can.
HARRIS: And are you doing this for the parents, the parents individually, are you doing this for the parents and the student together?
MILLER: We're doing this for the parents and the siblings that are here. We're doing this for students that went to class and were friends with these people. We're doing this for the community that's been just completely turned upside-down.
HARRIS: How many issues are we dealing with here? I'm thinking about, for example, Tina Harrison (ph) who we spoke with earlier who was in Norris Hall and trying to make her escape as this was going on. I'm thinking that her issues might be a little different than someone who was on campus and heard about it and might be frantically looking for information about a classmate or a friend.
MILLER: Sure. Everybody's going to come at this from their own personal experience and with their own history and their own concerns and issues as well as their own strengths and capacities. So our goal right now is to help people tap into their personal strengths and into the support they have from the community and family around them.
Many people will be able to move through this without ever going into a pathological state. Some people will need additional professional help. But most people really will need each other, their community, their family to get through this. And that's why we're here, to facilitate for them.
HARRIS: You want to guide people -- I thought this was interesting, what you just said. Guide people to tap into their personal strengths. Wow. How do you do that and what kinds of qualities, personal strengths are we talking about here?
MILLER: We're talking about people who might be very determined, might be very open to their own emotions, might be able to support another person who's in a lot of emotional intense pain without taking that intense pain on.
So everybody has different strengths. And those strengths are going to vary by person and they're going to vary by culture and they're going to vary by age and experience.
HARRIS: And you're experienced and your team is experienced to handle all of that. I have to ask you, have you started talking to some of the parents, some of the students? And I'm just curious as to what you're hearing. Is there a common thread in the experience that you're hearing?
MILLER: I think the most common thread right now is disbelief and people just feeling very stunned. And that's pretty normal. I think a lot of us felt that when 9/11 occurred, when Hurricane Katrina occurred. Every disaster is going to be very different and each tragedy has its own dimensions that people have to absorb and that they have to cope with. So the most common theme is people pulling together and supporting each other through this.
HARRIS: I'm thinking about what the next few days might be like. We talked to Tina Harrison, a student that was in Norris Hall when the shootings occurred. And she mentioned to me that it was just -- just beginning to sink in. So there seems to be a short-term role and then there seems to be something that you need to be mindful of in the days and the weeks ahead as well.
MILLER: Sure. There's going to be a process that people go through and there's no one right way to go through that process. Each person has their own individual approach to it, each culture has its own individual approach to it. And people are going to cope very differently. There's no one way to do it. But most people are going to come out the other side of this having learned from the experience and knowing a better depth of themselves.
HARRIS: You concerned at all about post-traumatic stress?
MILLER: Oh, yes, we work a lot with that.
HARRIS: And how will you be able to identify that, the signs of that? What are you looking for?
MILLER: When we look for those signs -- first of all we don't diagnose post-traumatic stress for at least four weeks after a trauma. So it's way too early. The reactions that we're seeing right now are very normal.
But what we look for is when the reaction is impairing the person's ability to function. And so when we start seeing people who can't move to the next step, they can't get their bills paid, they can't get their laundry done, they can't keep up their day-to-day functioning, then we know that those normal reactions are perhaps moving in a direction where we need to make professional intervention.
HARRIS: So we're talking about the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history. You anticipate that there might be a case or two down the road that you'll be dealing with and other professionals will be dealing with?
MILLER: I think that probably the range between four percent to 11 percent is what we would look for in terms of people who may develop any sort of pathological outcome from this. But for the most part generally people will come through this as a painful experience that teaches them something different about life.
HARRIS: The listening component seems to me is going to be huge for you and your other -- the other professionals on your team.
Clinical psychologist Dorinda Miller, Dorinda, thanks for your time this morning.
MILLER: Thank you. Bye-bye.
HARRIS: And let's bring in our Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. She has a perspective on this to share with us this morning. She's looking a the volatile issue, it always is, of gun control.
Candy, good morning to you.
CANDY CROWLEY, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. What we're seeing here is generally what we see after an incident such as this. We saw it after Columbine. We saw it a bit after the shooting of the Amish school children. And that is an increase at least in the discussion of gun control.
Now, what happens here is that it has been for the most part simply that, discussion. Consider that what we have seen over the past couple of years is the last major piece of legislation, federal legislation on gun control, was in 1996. That was a domestic violence bill, as you would have it. It said that if someone committed a misdemeanor in connection with domestic violence, that person could neither buy nor possess a handgun.
So what's happened in the wake of Columbine, in the wake of those Amish school children shootings, we have not seen any major kind of gun legislation passing -- Tony.
HARRIS: And what was a little -- well, it felt a little unseemly to me, and I wonder if you receive some of these e-mails, too, from advocacy groups on both sides of this issue, sending e-mails out in what felt like the immediate hours after this. Did you receive some of those e-mails?
CROWLEY: I did receive some of those e-mails. And you know, your first instinct of course is to go to those children and go to those parents. And obviously that's where we are now and that's where the importance lies.
But it does bring up questions. Any time you do this, of gun control. How did this man get these guns? So that's where the conversation begins, where it goes really depends on the public.
HARRIS: That's right. Candy Crowley for us this morning. Great to talk to you, Candy, as always.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, remembrance services have already started. Many grieving students took part in an overnight vigil on the Virginia Tech campus. Some hugged each other, many cried, others lit candles and sang. Our coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre continues this morning in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: One day after the tragic events that happened here at Virginia Tech, we are starting to learn more about the victims in this terrible shooting rampage. One of them we would like to tell you more about, Ryan Clark. He is the man who was an R.A. at the dormitory where this shooting first began. He was a triple major. His name is Ryan Clark. Let's listen now to some thoughts from his sister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NADIA CLARK, RYAN CLARK'S SISTER: I've lost a brother, you know. I had two, now I just have one. I lost a friend, I lost part of my heart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I mentioned to your brother, I think the world loses every time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think that the world has lost here?
CLARK: Basically my brother was an angel, someone that would have been great to this world. You know, all he wanted to do was help children and help other people. So they just lost someone who is really, really kind, really genuine all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Once again, Nadia Clark, the sister of that man you see on your screen, Ryan Clark. He was from Martinez, Georgia. A triple major and also an R.A, at West A.J., the residence hall where the shooting spree first began yesterday at Virginia Tech.
People trying to make sense of what happened at Virginia Tech. Blacksburg town mayor, Ron Rordam is joining me now to talk a little bit more about the mood and really the sense of community, Mr. Mayor, that I'm sure you have seen a lot of. Is it a surprise to you after the events that took place yesterday?
MAYOR RON RORDAM, BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA: It really is, the events yesterday were tragic happening in our little town. First, I'd like to extend our condolences and our prayers for all of those who suffered in this tragedy. We are a small town, we're a tight knit community and we're a very safe community. So to have something like this happen does affect us all and we all are grieving right now for those who have lost.
COLLINS: In just the short time that I have been here, though, I'm wondering if it's a surprise to you at all the way that the people have so quickly come together and (INAUDIBLE) around and tried to help each other through this.
RORDAM: No, it's not surprising at all. We are a community and the town of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech are tied very closely together. So I think that what we are trying to do in this community now is find ways to reach out and to start a healing process and go forward and help the University in any way that we can.
COLLINS: What type of people live here?
RORDAM: It's a pretty broad mix of people, being a university town, it's a very diverse community, and with a lot of diverse views. So when I say it's a very -- the community is from lots of different sectors of life but we are a strong group of people.
COLLINS: What is this going to change about your town?
RORDAM: I think one thing that a tragedy like this does is it helps you remember the things that are important. You remember your friends, your family, and you hold close to the people around you, and that includes the students here at Virginia Tech.
COLLINS: What have you noticed by way of these students? I'm sure that you come into contact with them and have for years, being the mayor of this town. Do you worry for them?
RORDAM: Of course we do. We like to think of this as their second home when they're away from home. So a tragedy like this that strikes them, of course, we worry and I think my wife probably yesterday, she's driving through town, expressed the sentiment as lots of people in Blacksburg had. She said there were two or three students sitting on the bench and you could tell they were in shock and she just wanted to stop and say, get in, we'll take care of you.
And I think that's the way we feel as a town. We want to open our arms and say, we'll take care of you, we'll do what we can to help all of us get through this.
COLLINS: And there is, of course, a business side to all of this as well with the terrible emotional toll this has taken on everyone here, to be clear, so people know at home Virginia Tech has its own police department not under your command, yours of the town of Blacksburg, very separate from that.
But of course the two act and work together as we saw, I believe, back in August, one of the very first days of school here for the events that happened with the shooting on campus. Will that change? Will the coordination between the campus police and your police department change or be effected in any way after yesterday's events?
RORDAM: I really don't think so. I'm very proud of how our police department has reacted to the two times they've been tested in this last year. They've acted in a professional manner and I think that that is one benefit that we have here in Blacksburg, is the cooperation, the coordination between the university and town that we can both step in and assist and help when needed.
So I think, if anything, it just makes them even closer because they have worked together so closely.
COLLINS: You're a leader in this town, you're the mayor, I'm sure that you don't want the events of what happened yesterday to be what Blacksburg is known for and will always be known for. What do you have to to tell the people of this town?
RORDAM: I think what I want to say to the people of Blacksburg but also to the people around the country is that we are a strong town, that we are a town that is positive, a town that is progressive, and a town that will come together and move forward, that look at us for our friendliness.
In fact, a poll that was taken a couple of years ago, Citizen Survey, talked about how everyone felt safe in parks and on the street and at night. So, we're a safe community. This is one of those things that happen, it's not just particularly to Blacksburg but unfortunately it did happen here.
COLLINS: I can't help but ask, it must make you, after hearing you describe your town, it must make you incredibly angry. There's got to be some type of sense of violation, if you will.
RORDAM: I think right now there's more of a sense of sadness. There's more of a sense that we just need to move forward and to start this healing process. I think that many of us are still in shock and trying to just fathom the depth of this tragedy. But we will and we can move forward. So, I think that's more of a sense of sorrow.
COLLINS: Understandably so. I know that's part of what the healing process will be about. Coming up at 2:00 today with the convocation, which I'm sure ...
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com