As the nation mourns for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting, many GW students are struggling to cope with the tragedy that has impacted colleges nationwide.
On Monday, an assailant shot and killed more than 30 people in an academic building at Virginia Tech in what is the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The campus in Blacksburg, Va., is about 260 miles southwest of Washington.
Those GW students with loved ones in the Virginia Tech community said they repeatedly called their friends and stayed tuned to the television within hours of hearing the news.
Sophomore Jessica Forbes, a transfer student from Tech, visited the campus last weekend. On Monday night, she said she learned that her former co-worker had been killed and also that her friend had been hit with a stray bullet in the hand.
“It took me a little bit to get used to (the news),” Forbes said. Though she initially wanted to mourn alone, she said she was impressed by how GW rallied together.
“I know I’ll be back to visit my friends next year. Everyone there is going through so much more than I ever imagined,” she said.
Junior Emily Sydnor received a text message Monday afternoon saying a close family friend at Tech had been shot and was in stable condition at a hospital. The girl had been grazed in the head by a bullet and was recovering.
“Even just that little bit knowing that she could have been worse – people in her class died – it’s horrible to think about,” Sydnor said. “If it grazed her head two centimeters to the left, it could have been a different scenario.”
She said she spent a lot of time calling people at Tech to make sure they were safe. Throughout the day, she reluctantly followed the breaking news coverage for more information.
“It was one of those things where I didn’t want to read (the news), it was so horrible,” said Sydnor, a Virginia native. “But at the same time, I needed to know what was going on.”
Outside GW’s candlelight vigil Tuesday night, sophomore Luigia D’Onofrio said she has many friends who attend Tech, none of whom were killed or injured.
“I mean, it definitely hasn’t sunk in yet,” said a teary-eyed D’Onofrio. “I’m just really worried about my friends.”
John Dages, director of the University Counseling Center, said any student feeling confused or disheartened can seek counseling or call the University hotline 24 hours a day. In a mass e-mail administrators sent to GW community members Monday afternoon, students were encouraged to seek the help of counselors, who can be reached at 994-5300.
“We will go out of our way (to help students) under these conditions,” Dages said. “If someone needs to be seen, we are not going to wait.”
In Monday’s blast e-mail, officials said the University Police Department went on “heightened alert” and that everyone should be more vigilant for suspicious activity. Rodney Johnson, director of Parent Services, said the same e-mail was sent to his office’s parent listserv, which goes to more than 6,500 people.
Julie Ramacciotti, parent of sophomore Jaime Ramacciotti, said she was pleased to receive the e-mail from Parent Services and called her daughter Monday to ask her if she feels safe.
“(Jaime) said ‘I feel very safe and I never worry when I am anywhere here on campus,'” Julie Ramacciotti said. “But she also said to me ‘How would anyone ever know if someone came into a building with a weapon?'”
Ramacciotti added that when sending a child to an urban campus like GW, it is important to teach them about “being aware of their surroundings.”
-Victoria Fosdal contributed to this report.
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