April 16, 2007 – Norris Hall

Three years ago today, horror struck Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.

We Remember…

At about 9:40 a.m., just over two hours after the initial shootings at West Ambler-Johnston, the killer entered Norris Hall, which houses the Engineering Science and Mechanics program among others, and chained the three main entrance doors shut. He placed a note on at least one of the chained doors, claiming that attempts to open the door would cause a bomb to explode. Shortly before the shooting began, a faculty member found the note and took it to the building’s third floor to notify the school’s administration. At about the same time, the killer had begun shooting students and faculty on the second floor; the bomb threat was never called in.

At about 9:41, within one or two minutes of the first shots, the first 9-1-1 call was received. Because it came from a cell phone, it was routed to the Blacksburg Police dispatch center instead of the Virginia Tech Police. Despite some initial confusion, it takes only about one minute for the dispatcher to recognize that the call is coming from on campus and transfer the call. The first police officers arrive within three minutes of receiving the first 9-1-1 call, but cannot enter because the doors of all three exterior entrances are chained shut. Attempts to shoot out these locks are unsuccessful.

The killer’s first attack was in an advanced hydrology engineering class taught by Professor G. V. Loganathan in room 206. The killer first shot and killed the professor, then continued shooting, killing nine of the 13 students in the room and injuring two others. Next, the killer went across the hall to room 207, in which instructor Christopher James Bishop was teaching German. The killer killed Bishop and four students; six students were wounded. He then moved on to Norris 211 and 204. In both of these classrooms, the killer was initially prevented from entering the classroom by barricades erected by instructors and students. In room 204, Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, forcibly prevented the killer from entering the room. Librescu was able to hold the door closed until most of his students escaped through the windows, but he died after being shot multiple times through the door. One student in his classroom was killed. Instructor Jocelyne Couture-Nowak and student Henry Lee were killed in room 211 as they attempted to barricade the door.

The killer reloaded and revisited several of the classrooms. After the killer’s first visit to room 207, several students had barricaded the door and had begun tending the wounded. When the killer returned minutes later, Katelyn Carney and Derek O’Dell were injured while holding the door closed. The killer also returned to room 206. According to a student eyewitness, the movements of a wounded Waleed Shaalan distracted the killer from a nearby student after the shooter had returned to the room. Shaalan was shot a second time and died. Also in room 206, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan may have protected fellow student Guillermo Colman by diving on top of him. Colman’s various accounts make it unclear whether this act was intentional or the involuntary result of being shot. Multiple gunshots killed Lumbantoruan, but Colman was protected by Lumbantoruan’s body.

Students, including Zach Petkewicz, barricaded the door of room 205 with a large table after substitute professor Haiyan Cheng and a student saw the killer heading toward them. The killer shot several times through the door but failed to force his way in. No one in that classroom was wounded or killed.

Hearing the commotion on the floor below, Professor Kevin Granata brought 20 students from a nearby classroom into an office, where the door could be locked, on the third floor of Norris Hall. He then went downstairs to investigate and was fatally shot by the killer. None of the students locked in Granata’s office were injured.

At about 9:50, using a shotgun, police shoot open the ordinary key lock of a fourth entrance to Norris Hall that goes to a machine shop and that could not be chained. They hear gunshots as they enter the building and immediately follow the sounds to the second floor. As they reach the second floor, the killer fires his final shot, killing himself.

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