Posted Monday, April 16, 6:02 p.m.
Last updated Monday, April 16, 11:30 p.m.
The University Police Department is on “heightened alert” in response to a mass shooting at Virginia Tech Monday morning, a University official said.
The University sent a campus-wide e-mail Monday afternoon encouraging students to “exercise appropriate caution” and report any suspicious activity to UPD. Director of Media Relations Tracy Schario said while the University itself is not on a high alert, UPD officers are encouraged to be more vigilant.
“We are open and operating on a normal schedule, and encouraging everyone – faculty, students, administrators, University Police – to just take vigilance, report suspicious activity and say a prayer for the families, survivors and victims, and those injured,” Schario said. “It’s a completely unconscionable incident.”
At about 9 a.m., an assailant shot at least 30 people and killed himself in an academic building at the university’s Blacksburg, Va., campus in what is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, according to news reports. Blacksburg is about 260 miles southwest of Washington.
The University Counseling Center is encouraging members of the GW community to use its services if they are having trouble coping with the news.
“We will go out of our way (to counsel students) under these conditions,” said John Dages, director of the University Counseling Center. “If someone needs to be seen, we are not going to wait.”
Because the incident happened on a college campus, students may be more concerned for their own safety, Dages said.
“It might affect (students’) own sense of feeling safe and secure on campus when something like this tragically unfolds,” he said.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg issued the following statement Monday evening: “No words can describe our heartfelt sorrow and sympathies in response to the unconscionable tragedy at Virginia Tech. This incident reminds us all that senseless violence can occur anytime, anyplace. Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of the victims as well as to the entire Virginia Tech community.”
The University announced Monday evening that the “SJT House Party” scheduled for tomorrow will now take place May 1 due to the events at Virginia Tech today. The house party, which is a tour of three residence halls and the Mount Vernon quad, will honor Trachtenberg’s achievements at GW before he steps down after 19 years as president of the University in July.
University officials and student leaders have organized a vigil that will take place Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Marvin Center with a candlelight procession to Kogan Plaza immediately following. The vigil will be “an opportunity for our community to reflect and share thoughts and feelings on the recent events,” according to a press release. Students, faculty and staff are also encouraged to wear maroon- and orange-colored clothing Tuesday in honor of the Virginia Tech community, the release stated.
-David Ceasar and Jake Sherman contributed to this report.
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