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Students describe panic and confusion after shooting

Story Highlights

• Witness: Two jumped out window to escape
• Long line of police, ambulances responded
• Some thought it was a bomb threat
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(CNN) -- A gunman shot and killed himself after opening fire in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech on Monday, killing at least 32 others in the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history.

Students in Blacksburg, Virginia, described a chaotic scene as word of the shootings spread by e-mail, word-of-mouth and the school's emergency loudspeakers:

Tiffany Otey, Virginia Tech student: "At first we really weren't sure what was going on. It sounded like construction. There's a lot of construction going on always during our classes at that time. Then it was like a continuous gunfire going off like every second or so there would be another shot. There was approximately probably 50 shots total. ... 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, what happens to us? We're like sitting there, too, like, who knows if the shooter was going to come up the next floor.

Maybe 10 minutes later we were in the room. The police came up. They all had bulletproof vests on, machine guns. They were telling us to put our hands above our head and if we didn't cooperate and put our hands above our heads they would shoot. I guess they were afraid, like us, like the shooter was going to be among one of us. So we were told to keep our hands above our head and run out of the building. At one point, somebody didn't have their hands above their head and one of the cops stated, you know, put your hands above your head, like we're going to have to shoot."

Jason Piatt, student: What happened today, this was ridiculous. I don't know what was going through this guy's mind, but I'm pretty outraged -- and I'll say on the record I'm pretty outraged that someone died in a shooting in a dorm at 7 in the morning and the first e-mail about it, no mention of locking down campus, no mention of canceled classes, they just mention they're investigating a shooting a few hours later at 9:26. That's pretty ridiculous. Meanwhile, while they sent out that e-mail, 21 people got killed.

Jamal Albarghouti, student: "The first thing I saw is when the policeman started taking their guns out. Then I knew this was serious. I didn't hear anything about the shooting that happened in A.J. but when I saw the guns, I thought there was just another bomb threat. Then I started hearing some gunshots far away. It seemed to me -- where the cops are near right now. And then all the cops were trying to get into Norris Hall and they used like a bomb or something to open one of the doors. Probably they dropped a bomb in the building. There was a person on the second floor of Norris trying to tell the cops that he's in there. And probably trying to guide him in." (Watch video Jamal Albarghouti shot at the scene Video)

Kristyn Heiser, student: "We were having class as usual and my teacher was lecturing and then there was a big window in our classroom and we saw all of a sudden about -- this was probably around 9:30 -- about six officers run by the building with their guns drawn. We were like, what's going on? Because this definitely is a quaint town where stuff doesn't really happen. It's pretty boring here. We were all alarmed, but someone got on their laptop and checked the Web site. All the Web site said was that there had been a shooting incident and that it had occurred at that dorm, which is across campus."

Matt Waldron, student: "I was on campus today, and I was walking toward class with my iPod on and these police cars started streaming down the sidewalk and kids were peeling off. I guess there were gunshots. It was right behind the building that I was in. And so they peeled us alongside the building. We had to stay inside there for like 15 minutes buildings. These two kids panicked and jumped out of the top story window. One kid broke his ankle and the other girl was not in good shape just lying on the ground. It was just mayhem. They told us to get out there. We ran across the drill field as quick as we could. There were cops yelling, and it was just a mess. It was kind of scary."

Laura Spaventa, student: "I was in Shanks Hall, which is located in the upper portion of campus, and we were having class, and all of a sudden we had e-mail saying that, like, there was a shooting on campus and then we were updated with it saying that, like, classes were being canceled and to stay where we were. ... Right after we got that e-mail we heard five shots on campus, and we could hear the emergency speaker system. So we all got down under the desks and moved away from the windows.

There must have been at least over 20 or 30 cop cars and ambulances. Like, every street was lined with them. I did not see like openings at all, like, it was really scary. All the cops had, like, vests on, and some had guns in their hands and everything. I felt like I was in a war zone, or in the middle of like the city, or something. It was just very, very unsettling."

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