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THE SITUATION ROOM

Massacre at Virginia Tech

Aired April 17, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, college essays described as very disturbing, written by the young man behind the Virginia Tech massacre. Could authorities have spotted signs of trouble and acted earlier? And out of all the horror there are tales of heroism, students who blocked the door to save their classmates, the Holocaust survivor who died helping his students escape the killer. And the community shattered by that savage shooting spree gets words of comfort from the president who tells grieving students and family the nation prays for them.

To our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight people here at Virginia Tech and across the nation are grieving and they're struggling to try to understand incomprehensible loss and brutality. We now know more about the man behind the massacre. Twenty-three-year-old Virginia Tech English major Cho Seung-hui, his loner life, his vast troubles, his disturbing writings providing a trail of clues all leading towards America's deadliest shooting spree ever. And on this blood-stained campus today, the community came together to mourn, to remember the 32 victims and to hear President Bush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the end of the morning it was the worst day of violence on a college campus in American history. And for many of you here today, it was the worst day of your lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now the emerging portrait of a mass killer. CNN's Ted Rowlands is here on the campus. He's covering this investigation. You're trying to piece it all together and I know you've learned some important details. What's the latest?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well trying to figure out who this young man is, who could have been capable of doing such a thing and you talk to the people that he lived with, most of them didn't even know who he was. Very difficult to get a picture of this young man, unless you talk to his English professor or you read some of his writings.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROWLANDS (voice-over): While 23-year-old Cho Seung-hui is described as a quiet loner, there were clear signs of trouble well before he went on a shooting rampage. The most disturbing evidence came from his writing. In fact, a former Virginia Tech English teacher says she was so disturbed by some of Cho's writing that she urged him to get counseling. Last year Cho wrote this one-act play, filled with violence that includes a woman with a chainsaw and ends with the murder of a child. According to a search warrant obtained by CNN, investigators found (inaudible) material in Cho's dorm room and say they believe he was responsible for a bomb threat at the school a week before the shootings. The few that say they knew Cho say he was very quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's always kids in high school or at school that are always quiet. They just stick to themselves. They don't want to be bothered by nobody, but nothing too unusual. He was just a regular, shy kid.

ROWLANDS: While it's now clear Cho was filled with anger, it's unclear where it came from. His parents still live in Centreville at the family home, which was searched by investigators was quiet the day after the killings. Neighbors had nothing significant to add about the family or why this 23-year-old English student killed so many innocent people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: And according to folks that talked to his friends -- family friends of his parents, his parents are very hard-working people and as you can imagine, Wolf, just completely destroyed by this. It would seem as though that they, too, were caught off guard by what their son was capable of and what he did on this campus.

BLITZER: What a tragedy. What a tragedy. Ted, thank you for that.

The owner of a Roanoke, Virginia firearms store is telling CNN he sold Cho Seung-hui one of the guns found on his body after the shooting rampage. John Markell says Cho bought the Glock 19 .9 millimeter pistol more than a month ago paying $571 for it with a credit card, says the purchase was legal and unremarkable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MARKELL, GUN SHOP OWNER: He had three forms of I.D. In order to buy a handgun, you have to be older than 21 and be a Virginia resident, so he had a driver's license. That established his residency. Then he had his checkbook. The address on his checkbook matched the address on the license and he had his INS card. So he filled out the paperwork, we called it into the state police. They ran the background check, and he was cleared.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing odd about this fellow?

MARKELL: Not at all. He was very low key.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And tonight we're also learning about some very disturbing writings by the gunman, plays with violent themes, plays that raised some red flags among some of those people who actually read them.

CNN's Jason Carroll is following this for us. Jason, what were those words in those plays?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, I have to tell you some of the material is so disturbing we simply cannot read it to you. Some of the language in Cho's plays, in fact, is so graphic that we are unable to even show you some of the material. It is a telling, very telling look at a very troubled mind.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): The two plays, written by Cho Seung-hui contain chilling words from the 23-year-old Virginia Tech student. Cho, an English major, wrote the works for a play writing class. Copies of the plays were obtained by CNN from an AOL employee who took the class with Cho.

Both contain graphic passages about plans to kill a main character. Take Cho's play titled "Richard McBeef", a story about a young man who despises his stepfather Richard. It reads I hate him, must kill Dick. Dick must die. Kill Dick, Richard McBeef. In the eight-page play, the young character accuses his stepfather of molesting him saying get your hands off me, you sicko. Damn you. The mother in the play brandishes a chainsaw. The young man tries choking his stepfather with a cereal bar. One former FBI profiler says Cho's words could help investigators.

CANDICE DELONG, FORMER FBI PROFILER: I think that lends us a real -- gives us a window into what was going on inside his mind. And he seems to me that these writings indicate he felt helpless and powerless over people that were doing him harm.

CARROLL: Cho's second play titled "Mr. Brownstone" also involves threats of killing. Three students hate their math teacher, Mr. Brownstone, for giving them detention. It reads he has to make our lives miserable. I'd like to kill him. I'll be damn if he doesn't die. Another line says I want to watch him bleed.

DELONG: The individual that wrote this seems to be fixated or very angry about sexual things going on in his life, older male figures taking advantage of him, doing evil things. He seems to also have a theme in these papers where he sees himself, the younger person, as powerless and somewhat possibly hopeless but also very, very angry at the world.

CARROLL: The subject of money also plays an important role in both plays. In "Richard McBeef," the young man criticizes his stepfather saying you can't provide for my mom. In "Mr. Brownstone", the young students win millions at a casino only to have it stolen by their teacher. It closes with a final threat, "you won't get away with this, Brownstone".

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And Wolf, one of Cho's professors was so bothered by what she read more than a year ago, she suggested that he seek counseling. It is unclear at this point if he ever followed through and sought out that counseling -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jason, we're going to pick up on that point specifically. There's more to Cho's paper trail than those disturbing scripts. Our own Jim Acosta has been talking with the former chairwoman of Virginia Tech's English department and you're learning some incredible details, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We tracked down the former chair of the English Department here at Virginia Tech, Lucinda Ray -- Roy -- excuse me -- and she says in the fall of 2005, one of this young man's professors, a creative writing professor, came to her very concerned about some of Cho Seung-hui's writings. And she says that when she went to university officials to report these problems, she was told by those university officials that nothing could be done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LUCINDA ROY, FORMER ENGLISH DEPT.: There were several of us in English who became concerned when we had him in class, for various reasons. So I contacted some people to try to get some help for him because I was deeply concerned myself.

ACOSTA: And from what I understand, the writings were violent, disturbing?

ROY: The writings seemed very angry, as I recall. When I actually taught him myself, I took him out of class and taught him myself, I made it clear that that kind of writing wouldn't be acceptable and he needed to learn to write in another voice and empathize for others. When those rules hadn't been laid down, then yes, I would think that would be a fair characterization.

ACOSTA: If you don't mind me asking, did he write about killing people?

ROY: Not that I recall. In fact, that was the difficulty that I had. And by that, I mean the threats seem to be underneath the surface. They were not explicit. And that was the difficulty that the police had so I would go to the police and to counselors and to student affairs and everywhere else and they would say, but there's nothing explicit here. He's not actually saying he's going to kill someone. And my argument was he seemed so disturbed anyway that we needed to do something about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And Lucinda Roy says she was so concerned about these writings and so concerned that he had to stay in the department after what the university officials told her, she decided to teach a one-on- one seminar with this young man for an entire semester in the fall of 2005. She said she urged him to seek counseling, counseling Wolf that obviously was not successful.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, so many what-ifs -- Jim Acosta reporting for us. Thank you.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty in New York. Jack, I can't underscore how painful it is to be around these youngsters. They just come up to me and they talk about their friends who died yesterday, and they just want to talk about what these young kids were like. It's really awful.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I can't imagine spending the day in an environment like that. I have no idea what that must be like. The second guessers, the arm chair quarterbacks will no doubt have themselves a field day because we all know now that two hours elapsed between the first two killings in that Virginia Tech dormitory and then the rest of the massacre which followed in the engineering building.

A lot of students and parents are saying the university should have locked down the campus immediately after the first killings. They think the school should have canceled classes earlier or at least warned the students faster. Instead, campus police locked down just the dormitory building. The university president, Charles Steger, says they did the best they could. That many students were already on their way to campus and it would have been difficult to reach them.

And some say you can't blame the university's response. The experts describe any kind of a lockdown as challenging at best and they say it's hard to second guess the decisions made by university officials since at the time they actually thought they only had the isolated incident in the first building, in the dormitory, the first shooting. A thorough examination of school policies and procedure when it comes to things like this will no doubt follow, as it should.

But you can bet your last dollar on this. Before long, some lawyer is going to be standing in a courtroom arguing that if the school had only done this or done that, the second round of killings could have been averted. Here's the question. How would you rate Virginia Tech's response to yesterday's shootings? E-mail CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Governor Tim Kaine announced just a little while ago, Jack, as you heard alive here on CNN that he was forming an independent what he called after-action review to see what happened, what didn't happen, if, if, if some of this could have been avoided. We'll look forward to getting that review down the road -- Jack, thanks very much.

Coming up, the first victims gunned down in a dorm hours before the massacre across campus. Why did the gunman set his sights on them?

Also, in the footsteps of a killer, we're going to walk you across the sprawling university and retrace the nightmare that unfolded right here.

Plus, heroes in the midst of tragedy -- we'll show you stories of amazing courage and sacrifice. Our special coverage continues right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're live tonight here on the campus of Virginia Tech, scene of the deadliest shooting spree in American history. Most of the horrific killing happened in the science and engineering building here, that's called Norris Hall, but the slaughter actually started some two hours earlier in a dorm with two victims.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick has been learning more about this part of the story. Deb, what are you finding out?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, students at A.J. Hall are really struggling to find out exactly why this happened in their dorm. They say walking by the elevator and the stairwell is very, very eerie, thinking that the gunman likely used both of those to get in and out of the building. They also have questions as to why those two people were chosen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK (voice-over): No one can say if Emily Jane Hilscher knew the gunman, whether he may have been obsessed with her or with someone else, but the 19-year-old freshman was one of the first two students to die. Emily's dorm room was closest to the fourth floor elevators in Ambler Johnston Hall. It's where she and the gunman came face-to-face.

ANDREW MILLER, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: The rumors are that it was his girlfriend and they were in an argument and then the R.A. tried to help and he just enraged.

FEYERICK: Ryan Clark was the R.A., the resident assistant who lived next door to Emily. He was shot and killed at the same time.

GERALD GOAD, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: His name was Ryan, nicknamed Stet (ph) Clark. The reason why I wear this uniform today is because he was a member of the Marching Virginians.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe it's my brother, you know his school. You know, you see it all the time. You just say, oh my God, you know, you hope that never happens.

FEYERICK (on camera): So what about the killer's motives? Why did he come here first? Police initially called the dorm shooting a domestic disturbance. But a friend of Emily's tells CNN Emily had been going out with the same guy for a long time and that the killer appeared out of nowhere and quote, "ruined everyone's life".

(voice-over): On her MySpace Web page, Emily called herself the pixie writing, quote, "I'm interested in pretty much everything", unquote. She loved horses and was studying animal science. Friends set up their own tribute on Facebook, one of them writing, quote, "she was always smiling, always looking at the bright side". Greg Riley (ph), who lived on the fourth floor and who ran from the dorm after the shooting, wearing just a t-shirt and shorts, was going home for a few days rest. Others were leaving the dorm for good, choosing to ride out the rest of the semester anywhere but here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now it's four weeks until graduation, and one student told me he just has no idea how the kids here are going to actually finish out the semester -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story -- Deb Feyerick reporting for us on the campus. Thanks, Deb, very much.

Since getting here in the past few hours, I've walked around this campus. I've spoken to a lot of these students. Many of them just come up to me, they want to talk. They want to describe what happened to them yesterday. They want to give us some details of their friends who were killed. This campus, so much of it has now turned into what some are calling a killing ground.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us. Brian, you've had a chance to walk it. It's really a lovely campus here. It's huge, a lot of wonderful complexes, a lot of excellent educational facilities. Yesterday morning, all that shattered.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really did. And you get a unique perspective on it when you actually talk to the kids who live and study in these areas. We did get a unique look at the killing scenes with two young ladies who do live and study there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Whitney Bennett and Sarah Stevens never dreamed they would be this close to terror. Both 19-year-old freshmen at Virginia Tech, Bennett took classes in the same building on the same floor most of the killings took place and lost a friend. Stevens lives in the same dorm where the first killings took place on the same floor, but on a different wing. She was on that floor when the shooting started but didn't hear it.

(on camera): Did anybody come into the dorm area and put you on lockdown at any time?

SARAH STEVENS, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Not me specifically. They had the west side on complete lockdown.

TODD (voice-over): Stevens waited it out until the end and found out a young man she knew on that floor, Ryan Clark, had been killed. Somehow the shooter was able to get into this dorm even though it's likely he didn't live there and didn't have a key.

(on camera): Door is not going anywhere.

STEVENS: The only way he could have gotten in is if someone let him in or he stood by the door and waited.

TODD (voice-over): We walked to nearby Harper Hall, where Cho Seung-hui lived.

(on camera): Could someone kind of hide in plain sight like that, not be noticed even if you concealed them.

WHITNEY BENNETT, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: It was a cold morning here at Tech, so on any cold morning like that you're going to have numerous students with big coats, backpacks. It would be I mean very easy for him to probably put two handguns anywhere on his person...

TODD: OK.

BENNETT: ... and nobody would notice unless he were acting incredibly strange.

TODD (voice-over): Now we start toward the building where 30 people lost their lives.

(on camera): So we're between Harper Hall, where the shooter lived and West Ambler Johnston Hall where the first shootings took place. We're walking straight to Norris Hall.

(voice-over): It takes us 11 minutes past buildings and wide- open areas. We come upon Norris Hall and find two windows still open where kids jumped out. For Bennett and Stevens, it's the first time back since the shootings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't go back in that building again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: In fact, Whitney Bennett says that she'll do anything she can to avoid taking classes in Norris Hall again. Despite all that, neither Whitney Bennett nor Sarah Stevens are even thinking about transferring -- Wolf.

BLITZER: (inaudible) general theme we've been getting. So many of these students say they love Virginia Tech.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: They're determined to stay despite this tragedy.

TODD: Run into that over and over again on this campus, people say despite what's happened here they want to stay. Unbelievable.

BLITZER: I'm not so sure their parents want them to stay...

TODD: Maybe not.

BLITZER: ... but they're ready to stay. Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

Up ahead tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we're continuing our special coverage, including a father's terrible, terrible ordeal. Joseph Samaha's beautiful daughter Reema among the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings, speaks to us about how he and his family are coping with this tragedy.

And courage under fire, a professor and a Holocaust survivor gave his life to save his students. His story coming up as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: One by one, 30 people were methodically shot dead in a classroom building. Many more fell wounded. But amid that horror here on the campus of Virginia Tech, there was a lot of bravery and heroism.

Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. What are you learning tonight about some of these remarkable stories, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning these extraordinary stories about heroes risking their own lives to save others. Now these stories are being pieced together from firsthand accounts what was happening during the gunman's rampage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): Inside Norris Hall with the sound of gunshots and screams, one student reports hearing something else she'll never forget, maniacal laughter.

(GUNSHOTS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we heard was horrible. There were just so many gunshots and people screaming. And it was hell, what hell would be like.

SNOW: With a gunman on the loose came split second decisions, Senior Zach Petkewicz and others in his class threw up a table against a door to form a barricade to keep out the gunman.

ZACH PETKEWICZ, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT WITNESS: He came to our door, tried the handle. 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 that in and closed it back up. That's when he backed up and shot twice into the middle of the door, thinking we were up against it.

SNOW: That barricade saved their lives. Students say 76-year- old Professor Liviu Librescu was gunned down, using his body to block the gunman from entering the classroom door. He was shot and killed. His student survived. Librescu's son in Israel says he is not surprised that his father, who was also a Holocaust survivor, would act with such bravery.

JOE LIBRESCU, SHOOTING VICTIM'S SON: I knew that he's going to take action. He's going to do something that's not sort of normal or definitely not something cowardly. SNOW: Ryan Clark say students also didn't run for cover. He was a resident assistant at the dorm where the first shooting occurred. Students say he was rushing to investigate when he was killed. Pictured here in his marching band uniform, Clark was known for his smile. He pursued three majors and made time for charity work. His twin brother and sister say the world lost an angel.

BRYAN CLARK, VICTIM'S TWIN BROTHER: Always wanted to do for others in any situation.

NADIA CLARK, SISTER OF SLAIN STUDENT: My brother is 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.

SNOW: Early Tuesday CNN's Kiran Chetry asked Zach Petkewicz whose quick action saved many lives a question so many are asking today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you say when people are calling you a hero today? It's tough.

PETKEWICZ: I'm just glad I could be here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Now Zach Petkewicz says he was initially scared out of his mind but knew he had to do something. Ten other students were with him who survived -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank God for that. Mary Snow, thank you very much.

And to our viewers in the United States and around the world, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, disturbing new insight into the gunman behind the Virginia Tech massacre, academic officials say some of Cho Seung-hui's writings over a year ago were violent and troubling.

A former student who was in a playwriting class with the English major from South Korea says his scripts were twisted and macabre. President Bush offers condolences and comfort to the Virginia Tech community. He spoke at convocation here on the campus, met with relatives and victims and stopped at a makeshift memorial. He's calling this day a day of sadness for the entire nation.

And tonight, 14 people wounded in the rampage, still in area hospitals. Officials say one is in critical condition. The rest are in stable or good condition.

I'm Wolf Blitzer on the campus of Virginia Tech, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Reema Samaha was one of the young students slain here yesterday. She was at her first year at Virginia Tech, went to the same high school as Cho Seung-hui. Just this weekend she performed at a dance event right here on the campus, Virginia Tech's contemporary dance ensemble calls Reema gorgeous, unique, talented and irreplaceable. I spoke earlier with her father, Joseph Samaha.

So walk us through how you learned about this. First of all, when was the last time you had a chance to speak with Reema?

JOSEPH SAMAHA, FATHER OF SLAIN STUDENT: Well luckily, you know I'm fortunate, my wife is fortunate. We were down here on Saturday and Sunday for a couple of dance events and...

BLITZER: She was performing.

SAMAHA: She was performing on Saturday. And on Sunday there was a festival, international festival at the university and she also performed there. She taught a lot of the students the folk dance, Lebanese folk dance, and she had a wonderful time. We were with her Saturday and Sunday and we said good-bye Saturday evening -- or Sunday evening, rather, and that was the last we spoke to her or saw her. We were to come back next weekend for another event, but, unfortunately, that's not going to happen.

BLITZER: Yesterday morning.

SAMAHA: Yes.

BLITZER: Tell us how you heard about, first of all, there were shots fired on this campus.

SAMAHA: That's true.

BLITZER: What did you hear? When did you hear about that?

SAMAHA: Well, I turned on the news early in the morning. I did find out on CNN that the event was taking place. And immediately started trying to contact my daughter. Phoned her.

BLITZER: She lived on campus?

SAMAHA: She was on campus. She did not pick up her cell phone. I was concerned immediately because she typically would call back within a few minutes, continued to call, text message, e-mail. Then I started to do my own research to find out what class she was in and what time and what building.

And through my research, I found out she was not in her room and that she was at a 9:00 a.m. class in the Norris dorm (sic) -- in the Norris building.

BLITZER: So she was in this class. And then what happened? And you still hadn't heard from her.

SAMAHA: We had not heard.

BLITZER: You can only assume -- myself being a father, you started to get really, really nervous.

SAMAHA: Started panicking a little bit. I called my wife at work. She's a teacher. And there was an early let-out that day because of the weather up in Northern Virginia. And she came home, and I immediately planned to come down here. My son and daughter came with me. And we just wanted to find out for ourselves, do our own research to see where Reema was.

BLITZER: And then what happened? How did you hear that...

SAMAHA: We got here around 6:15...

BLITZER: Last night.

SAMAHA: Last night.

BLITZER: And you still had not heard from her. Still had not -- nobody had said anything to you.

SAMAHA: No. I could only assume the worst because she was not responding. Nobody knew where she was.

BLITZER: Her friends, you were checking with all of her friends?

SAMAHA: Of course. And then we knew she was in that building. And found out she was -- that class was on the second floor and then we really -- I got very concerned. I kept it internally because I always try to have hope and hold out hope, and so did my wife and children. But I was all the time thinking the worst was happening to her.

BLITZER: And you weren't getting any information from the campus, from authorities here, from campus officials or the police or hospitals or anything?

SAMAHA: No one really could put the names of the victims with their IDs as they were taken out of the room. So if they couldn't speak for some reason or the other, they didn't know who they were. We called the hospitals. And that's how I did my homework. She was not on any list of injured or wounded. And so the morgue was the next natural place to call.

BLITZER: Did you actually go there?

SAMAHA: No, we did not go there. They wouldn't allow us to go there. And they weren't releasing any names until they could do a positive ID.

BLITZER: So at what time did you get the confirmation of this horrible, horrible news?

SAMAHA: Probably around an hour later, around 7:15, 7:30.

BLITZER: Last night.

SAMAHA: It was actually a young fellow on campus, a friend who was at the building at the time, and he knew the ambulance drivers, and he's the one who came in and broke the news to me.

BLITZER: Are you angry right now at the university, at -- I mean, it would be totally understandable.

SAMAHA: I'm focused on my daughter and seeing my daughter's body, at least, again. And that's where my anger kind of seeps through. I think a positive ID should be made at the morgue. We could go there. And they're saying that the coroner will not allow that.

BLITZER: Why?

SAMAHA: They don't have -- the reason is they don't have a big enough viewing area, and I guess they're doing further autopsies.

BLITZER: Have campus university officials been in touch with you? Have they spoken with you? Have they tried to help you and your family?

SAMAHA: They have. They have. They were very gracious yesterday and today. They're doing what they can, I think, for us. And if only they could override the coroner, I think we'd feel better.

BLITZER: And we don't understand why this can happen, why bad things happen to good people.

SAMAHA: Absolutely. We just believe and we hope that -- you know, and I grieve for the other families too. I mean, it's just -- it's senseless. Her very good friend was also in her class.

BLITZER: I think I speak for all of our viewers out there, Joseph.

SAMAHA: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What a remarkable man. What a horrible, horrible ordeal he and his family are going through. Our deepest condolences to them. We're getting more haunting images from yesterday's events at Virginia Tech through CNN's I-Report. Let's go to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, what are you seeing from the student eyewitnesses?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, through these I- Reports, we've been able to reconstruct what's happening all across campus today and yesterday and we're going back to yesterday right now. To Lee Hall, this is a hall of residents, not the scene of any shooting but still the scene of plenty of police activity.

These pictures were sent in already by Jason Joseph looking out through the windows outside. But now we're getting new video of what was happening inside right at this point. Let's play this for you. This video is from Casey Clark. He's a freshman. This was shot as he was standing in his dorm room looking out through the peep hole. I'm re-racking it there so you can see it more slowly.

Casey's video recorded the police sweeping the floors. This was the seventh floor of the dorm room. He shot this with his digital camera. Casey is an engineering major. He says he's now left campus to be at home with his family for a couple of days. He said at this point is when it all became very real -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing pictures. Thank you, Abbi, for that.

Just ahead, for the first time, we're going to hear from the roommates of the killer. We're going to find out why they called police on him before. Why didn't they actually? We're just getting this into CNN. We've got some new information. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, lived in the four-story Harper Hall dorm right here on the campus of Virginia Tech. In an exclusive interview with CNN's Gary Tuchman, Cho's roommates describe the young man who turned out to be a killer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Then something happened that you say he started harassing women at school here. Tell me about that, John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He -- I walked back to my room one night and there was a policeman in there. And apparently what had happened was he'd gone -- or he started talking to her online first. He found where she lived, starting talking to her on AIM. Then he went over there. He was using the name "Question Mark." Said, hey, I'm Question Mark. And that really freaked the girl out.

TUCHMAN: So he was stalking her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He found out everything about her first.

TUCHMAN: Like he told this girl all of the things he learned about her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if he told her that. But he thought they were playing some kind of game or something.

TUCHMAN: Did you know the girl?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I didn't...

TUCHMAN: Was she freaked out about it, did you hear later?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freaked out enough about it to call the police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were two other instances that we know of, one was one of our friends, he started following, bothering her and another was down the hall.

TUCHMAN: And what happened in those cases? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one down the hall, I got the girl's screen name and kind of told her -- I IMed her and told her this guy, you know, he's messing around with you, here's his name, and you should kind of ignore him and just stay away from him. And then the other time the cops responded again and Seung became upset about that. And he had told me that he might as well kill himself. And so I told the cops that and they took him away to the counseling center for a night or two.

BLITZER: And you can see more of Gary's exclusive interview with the gunman's former roommates, that will air tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." It begins 10:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Onyema Obaji is a Nigerian student here at Virginia Tech who lives on the same floor as -- same dorm as the gunman Cho Seung-Hui. He just got back from visiting one of his friends at the hospital.

Onyema, thanks very much for joining us. First of all, your friend at the hospital, how is he doing?

ONYEMA OBAJI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: He is doing pretty well.

BLITZER: What were the extent of the injuries?

OBAJI: I mean, he got shot on the side and he got shot in the arm. And the bullet is still lodged in his arm right now.

BLITZER: Did you know this gunman who lived on your floor in the same dorm?

OBAJI: Actually, I saw him in the hallway, and we always like said, what's up and like hi to each other, and that was about it.

BLITZER: But you never spoke with him? Did you have...

OBAJI: Not really.

BLITZER: But you've had conversations over the past 24 hours with people who knew him.

OBAJI: Not really.

BLITZER: Not really?

OBAJI: No.

BLITZER: So you really don't have a good sense of what could have motivated this guy to do this horrific deed.

OBAJI: I don't know. Even like when I saw him around, he was pretty quiet, all to himself and all of that.

BLITZER: You came to this campus from Nigeria. Did you ever think this would happen here in the United States, something like this? OBAJI: I mean, in the United States, but not over in Blacksburg, because -- I don't know, it seemed like a pretty quiet town and all of that.

BLITZER: Are you going to stay?

OBAJI: Yes, I am.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks and good luck to you.

OBAJI: No problem.

BLITZER: Onyema Obaji, he's a Nigerian student here at Virginia Tech. Just one story, so many stories going on here. The students are resilient, and they will be coming back.

Up ahead tonight, young, eager and determined to continue, they're eager to learn. A life snuffed out in a heartbeat by a campus killer. Friends and family talk about their loss. Also happening now, a vigil for the slain students and a grief-stricken campus. Much more on our coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're live here on the campus of Virginia Tech tonight, a school gripped by shock and grief. And we've been trying to bring you information about as many of the victims as we can as the information comes out. CNN's Carol Costello is here with us in Blacksburg. She's on the campus.

You've been talking to friends of Daniel Perez. Carol, tell our viewers what they're saying.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: They're saying so many emotional things, Wolf. I'm here at a candle light vigil that is set to officially get under way at 8:00. As you can see, literally, there are hundreds of students here. And while this is about sadness, this is also about strength. Earlier today, I know exactly what they mean by that because I met some very strong students who lost a very dear friend at Norris Hall.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): 21-year-old Daniel Alejandro (ph) Perez Cueva, one name among so many young victims. He died in Norris Hall, in French class.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was awesome. Just a great friend to everyone, cared about everyone.

COSTELLO: Marilee Smith (ph) studied with him. Says he loved learning. He would push his friends to discover the world outside of the United States. Perez came to the United States from Peru in 2000. He and his sister were near the Pentagon on 9/11. They saw the plane, the sorrow. That's why Perez was in Virginia Tech's international studies program. He wanted to save the world.

I met Perez's sister in the Roanoke, Virginia, airport. Too devastated to talk on camera, she told me she knew her brother had died at Norris Hall when she couldn't get him on the phone. Her husband serves as a medic in Iraq. Her father is in Peru. In fact, her father told us, the pain is too much.

"I talked to my son last week. He was happy in school." Perez's father cannot get to the United States. He will likely miss his son's funeral. Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva is just one of many victims.

The Perez family just one now waiting to see their loved one for the last time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And as someone is just offering me an orange ribbon, of course, the colors of this university, and I will wear it. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

COSTELLO: This vigil again set to get under way at 8:00 p.m., Wolf. Of course, we'll be here throughout the night. Coverage for all our viewers at CNN. Back to you.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story. Our love goes out to those people, those students, faculty members, others at that vigil. Our continuing coverage will move on. Could Virginia Tech have done more to prevent yesterday's horrific shooting rampage? Your e-mail, Jack Cafferty, that is coming up.

And finding meaning from immeasurable loss. Our Jeanne Moos brings us the moments of grief, silence and hope as Virginia Tech pays tribute to those who will never be forgotten.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question we asked is how would you rate Virginia Tech's response to yesterday's shootings?

We got this from Jesse. He's a Virginia Tech freshman, class of 2010. "I'm a current student at Virginia Tech. I live in Thomas Hall, two minutes from Norris Hall. The police did everything they could. They thought they had the right man, they did not. I stand in complete support of the Virginia Tech school, administration, and the Virginia Tech Police Department."

This, though, from Brendan in Blacksburg, Virginia. "I'm a Virginia Tech senior, and I was very offended when I heard President Steger and members of the police department say that there were too many people en route to campus to try to stop them. These people live five minutes from campus, not hours. If they would have responded promptly, like they do when we close school for snow or we send out instant e-mails for bomb threats, and at the worst, notify their staff to cancel class, I believe these lives would have been saved."

Ronald in Atlanta: "It's beyond my comprehension that an institute of higher learning, in light of 9/11, with its own previous campus problems, didn't have a better lockdown plan in place for an incident such as this. It's a big wakeup call for all colleges and universities to take a hard look at their own campus security."

Mark writes: "Jack, it was about what you would expect in a small, quiet southern town. I'm more worried about people missing the warning signs. But someone is going to get sued and the money that they will need to improve security will be gone."

Greg writes from Boston College: "I think it's ridiculous that everyone is questioning Virginia Tech's handling of the situation so much. They did what they could. It's not every day a school must be prepared for a shooting."

And finally Greg writes: "They cancel classes for snow, why not for murder?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online, along with video clips of the "Cafferty File" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you. Up ahead, this day of mourning in words and pictures and tears. The moments, small and large, of heartbreak and hope. We're live here on the campus of Virginia Tech, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To call this an emotional day is an understatement, and the feelings of grief and shock spread far beyond this campus in Southwest Virginia. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president was in the house, but it was a poet who brought down the house.

NIKKI GIOVANNI, POET & VIRGINIA TECH PROFESSOR: We are Virginia Tech. We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on.

MOOS: Not moving on on a day that gave us our first look into the eyes of the alleged shooter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is this man?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the high school picture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man, Cho Seung-Hui.

GIOVANNI: We are brave enough to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again. We are Virginia Tech.

MOOS: And even those who make us laugh for a living honored the dead.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Today was a rough day for America.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": A very, very sad day, as everybody knows.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": A horrible, horrible day.

LENO: I just want to be respectful. We do some jokes and be silly, but we just want to be -- you know, we don't want to forget what happened today. OK, now that I've brought everybody down...

STEWART: Let's move on as though the world is OK.

MOOS: But it wasn't. There was something especially sinister about the distorted peephole view shot by a student.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see the police go by there. He says they were screaming, get in the rooms, lock your door.

GIOVANNI: We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS.

MOOS: A brother whose sister died in the shootings allowed his psyche to be probed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you closed your eyes last night to try to go to bed, I'm doubt that was an easy process, what images were floating through your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worst possible.

MOOS: Probed, then consoled by the ever-present press.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. The best of luck to you.

GIOVANNI: We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be.

MOOS: Even the regular networks broke into their soap operas to carry the convocation.

ANNOUNCER: "Virginia Tech Mourns." ANNOUNCER: "Massacre at Virginia Tech."

MOOS: The moment of silence spoke volumes when it was broken by a man's collapse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone collapsed on the floor, had to be helped to their feet.

GIOVANNI: Through all of this sadness, we are the Hokies! We will prevail! We will prevail! We will prevail! We are Virginia Tech!

(APPLAUSE)

MOOS: The Hokie is Virginia Tech's bird mascot.

CROWD: Let's go Hokies! Let's go Hokies! Let's go Hokies!

MOOS: The convocation ended with a show of team spirit that verged on spirituality.

CROWD: Let's go Hokies! Let's go Hokies! Let go Hokies!

(CHEERING)

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: People all over the world are watching. Abbi Tatton has that -- Abbi.

TATTON: The world headlines, Wolf, the word "massacre" in a dozen different languages. The Virginia Tech shooting. World headlines from Peru to Austria, Puerto Rico to the United Kingdom and back to Virginia Tech campus. The message there is heartache, leading this report from the word "surreal" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you. And that's it for me, but our coverage continues with Paula Zahn.

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