Virginia Tech Essay Prompt 2012

Virginia Tech shooting

The candlelight vigil on the night of April 17,
taken in front of Burruss Hall

LocationBlacksburg, Virginia, U.S.
Coordinates37°13′23″N80°25′16″W / 37.2231°N 80.4211°W / 37.2231; -80.4211 (Ambler Johnston Hall)[1]
37°13′46″N80°25′23″W / 37.2294°N 80.4231°W / 37.2294; -80.4231 (Norris Hall)[2]
DateApril 16, 2007; 10 years ago (2007-04-16)
c. 7:15 a.m. – 9:51 a.m.[3]:25 (EDT)
TargetStudents and faculty at Virginia Tech

Attack type

School shooting, mass murder, murder–suicide
Weapons
Deaths33 (including the perpetrator)[5]:127

Non-fatal injuries

23 (17 by gunfire)[6]:92[7]
PerpetratorSeung-Hui Cho
DefendersLiviu Librescu, Kevin Granata, Derek O'Dell, Zach Petkewicz, Matthew La Porte[8]

Coordinates: 37°13′37″N80°25′19″W / 37.227°N 80.422°W / 37.227; -80.422

The Virginia Tech shooting, also known as the Virginia Tech massacre, occurred on April 16, 2007, on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at Virginia Tech, shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks (another six people were injured escaping from classroom windows), approximately two hours apart, before committing suicide.[6]:92[7][9]:78

The attacks received international media coverage and drew widespread criticism of U.S. gun culture.[10] At the time, it was the deadliest shooting carried out by a single gunman in U.S. history. It sparked intense debate about gun violence, gun laws, gaps in the U.S. system for treating mental health issues, the perpetrator's state of mind, the responsibility of college administrations,[11] privacy laws, journalism ethics, and other issues. Television news organizations that aired portions of the killer's multimedia manifesto were criticized by victims' families, Virginia law enforcement officials, and the American Psychiatric Association.[12][13]

Cho had previously been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder. During much of his middle school and high school years, he received therapy and special education support. After graduating from high school, Cho enrolled at Virginia Tech. Because of federal privacy laws, Virginia Tech was unaware of Cho's previous diagnosis or the accommodations he had been granted at school. In 2005, Cho was accused of stalking two female students.[14] After an investigation, a Virginia special justice declared Cho mentally ill and ordered him to attend treatment; however, because he was not institutionalized, he was still allowed to purchase guns.[15] The shooting prompted the state of Virginia to close legal loopholes that had previously allowed individuals adjudicated as mentally unsound to purchase handguns without detection by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It also led to passage of the only major federal gun control measure in the U.S. since the year 1994. The law strengthening the NICS was signed by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2008.[16]

The Virginia Tech Review Panel, a state-appointed body assigned to review the incident, criticized Virginia Tech administrators for failing to take action that might have reduced the number of casualties. The panel's report also reviewed gun laws and pointed out gaps in mental health care as well as privacy laws that left Cho's deteriorating condition in college untreated.[9]:78[17]:2

Attacks[edit]

See also: Timeline of the Virginia Tech shooting § Event

The shootings occurred in two separate incidents. The first incident was in West Ambler Johnston Hall, during which Seung-Hui Cho killed two students. The second incident was in Norris Hall, where the other 31 deaths, including that of Cho himself, and all the nonlethal injuries, occurred. Cho used two firearms during the attacks: a .22-caliberWalther P22semi-automatic handgun and a 9 mm semi-automatic Glock 19 handgun.[4]

West Ambler Johnston shootings[edit]

Cho was seen near the entrance to West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-edresidence hall that housed 895 students,[1] at about 6:47 a.m. EDT.[3]:25[4] Normally, the hall was accessible only to its residents via magnetic key cards before 10:00 a.m.; Cho's student mailbox was in the lobby of the building, so he had a pass card allowing access after 7:30 a.m., but it is unclear how he gained earlier entrance to the building.[9]:77[18]:13

At around 7:15 a.m., Cho entered the room which freshman Emily J. Hilscher shared with another student. Hilscher, a 19-year-old from Woodville, Virginia, was fatally wounded. After hearing the gunshots, a resident assistant, Ryan C. Clark, attempted to aid Hilscher. Cho shot and killed Clark, a 22-year-old senior from Martinez, Georgia.[19][20] Hilscher remained alive for three hours after being shot, but no one from the school, law enforcement, or hospital notified her family until after she had died.[21][22]

Cho left the scene and returned to his room in Harper Hall, a dormitory west of West Ambler Johnston Hall. While police and emergency medical services units were responding to the shootings in the dorm next door, Cho changed out of his bloodstained clothes, logged on to his computer to delete his e-mail, and then removed the hard drive. About an hour after the attack, Cho is believed to have been seen near the campus duck pond. Although authorities suspected Cho had thrown his hard drive and mobile phone into the water, a search was unsuccessful.[23][24]

Almost two hours after the first killings, Cho appeared at a nearby post office and mailed a package of writings and video recordings to NBC News; these proved to be of little investigative value to authorities. The package was postmarked 9:01 a.m.[25] He then walked to Norris Hall. In a backpack, he carried several chains, locks, a hammer, a knife, two handguns with nineteen 10- and 15-round magazines, and nearly 400 rounds of ammunition.[6]:88, 92

Norris Hall shootings[edit]

About two hours after the initial shootings, Cho entered Norris Hall, which housed the Engineering Science and Mechanics program among others, and chained the three main entrance doors shut. He placed a note on one of the chained doors, claiming that attempting 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 third floor to notify the school's administration. At about the same time Cho had begun to shoot students and faculty on the second floor. The bomb threat was never called in.[6]:89[26] The first call to 9-1-1 was received at 9:42 a.m.[27][28]

According to several students, before the shooting began Cho looked into several classrooms. Erin Sheehan, an eyewitness and survivor who had been in room 207, told reporters that the shooter "peeked in twice" earlier in the lesson and that "it was strange that someone at this point in the semester would be lost, looking for a class".[29] At about 9:40 a.m., Cho began shooting.[6]:90 Cho's first attack after entering Norris occurred in an advanced hydrology engineering class taught by Professor G. V. Loganathan in room 206. Cho first shot and killed the professor, then continued firing, killing nine of the thirteen students in the room and injuring two others.[6]:90 Next, Cho went across the hall and into room 207, where instructor Jamie Bishop was teaching German. Cho shot at a student, then at Bishop, then at the rest of the students, killing Bishop and four students; six students were wounded.[6]:90 Cho then moved on to Norris 211 and 204.[27] In both of these classrooms, Cho was initially prevented from entering due to barricades erected by instructors and students. In room 204, Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, forcibly prevented Cho 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.[30] Instructor Jocelyne Couture-Nowak and student Henry Lee were killed in room 211 as they attempted to barricade the door.[31] When Cho broke through the barricade and entered the room, Air Force ROTC Cadet Matthew La Porte charged the gunman and died after taking heavy fire in an attempt to save lives (he was later posthumously awarded the Airman's Medal for his actions).[32] According to the Virginia Tech Review Panel's report, eleven students died in room 211 and the six students who survived all suffered gunshot wounds.[6]:91 However, one of the survivors, Clay Violand, stated that he played dead and escaped without injury.[33]

Victims
  • Jamie Bishop (35) Pine Mountain, Georgia[34]
    —German instructor
  • Jocelyne Couture-Nowak (49) Montreal, Quebec[35]
    —professor of French
  • Kevin Granata (45) Toledo, Ohio[36]
    —professor of Engineering
  • Liviu Librescu (76) Ploiești, Romania[37]
    —professor of Engineering
  • G. V. Loganathan (53) Gobichettipalayam, India[38]
    —professor of Engineering
  • Ross Alameddine (20) Saugus, Massachusetts[39]
    —sophomore
  • Brian Bluhm (25) Louisville, Kentucky[40]
    —masters student
  • Ryan Clark (22) Martinez, Georgia[41]
    —senior
  • Austin Cloyd (18) Champaign, Illinois[42]
    —freshman
  • Daniel Perez Cueva (21) Woodbridge, Virginia[43]
    —junior
  • Matthew Gwaltney (24) Chesterfield County, Virginia[44]
    —masters student
  • Caitlin Hammaren (19) Westtown, New York[45]
    —sophomore
  • Jeremy Herbstritt (27) Bellefonte, Pennsylvania[46]
    —masters student
  • Rachael Hill (18) Richmond, Virginia[47]
    —freshman
  • Emily Hilscher (19) Woodville, Virginia[48]
    —freshman
  • Matthew La Porte (20) Dumont, New Jersey[49]
    —sophomore
  • Jarrett Lane (22) Narrows, Virginia[50]
    —senior
  • Henry Lee (20) Roanoke, Virginia/Vietnam[51]
    —freshman
  • Partahi Lumbantoruan (34) Medan, Indonesia[52]
    —PhD student
  • Lauren McCain (20) Hampton, Virginia[53]
    —freshman
  • Daniel O'Neil (22) Lincoln, Rhode Island[54]
    —masters student
  • Juan Ortiz (26) Bayamón, Puerto Rico[55]
    —masters student
  • Minal Panchal (26) Mumbai, India[56]
    —masters student
  • Erin Peterson (18) Centreville, Virginia[57]
    —freshman
  • Michael Pohle Jr. (23) Flemington, New Jersey[58]
    —senior
  • Julia Pryde (23) Middletown Township, New Jersey[59]
    —masters student
  • Mary Karen Read (19) Annandale, Virginia[60]
    —freshman
  • Reema Samaha (18) Centreville, Virginia[61]
    —freshman
  • Waleed Shaalan (32) Zagazig, Egypt[62]
    —PhD student
  • Leslie Sherman (20) Springfield, Virginia[63]
    —junior
  • Maxine Turner (22) Vienna, Virginia[64]
    —senior
  • Nicole White (20) Smithfield, Virginia[65]
    —junior
Perpetrator (suicide)

Cho reloaded and revisited several of the classrooms.[27] After Cho's first visit to room 207, several students had barricaded the door and had begun tending to the wounded. When Cho returned minutes later, Katelyn Carney and Derek O'Dell were injured while holding the door closed.[66][67][68] Cho also returned to room 206. According to a student eyewitness, the movements of a wounded Waleed Shaalan distracted Cho from a nearby student after the shooter had returned to the room. Shaalan was shot a second time and died.[69] Also in room 206, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan may have shielded fellow student Guillermo Colman from more serious injury. Colman's various accounts make it unclear whether this act was intentional or the involuntary result of Lumbantoruan being shot.[70][71][72]

Students barricaded the door of room 205 with a large table after substitute professor Haiyan Cheng (Chinese: 程海燕; pinyin: Chéng Hǎiyàn[73]) and a student saw Cho heading toward them. Cho shot through the door several times but failed to force his way in. No one in that classroom was wounded or killed.[74][75][76]

Hearing the commotion on the floor below, Professor Kevin Granata took twenty students from a third-floor classroom into his office where the door could be locked. He then went downstairs to investigate and was shot and killed by Cho. None of the students locked in Granata's office were harmed.[77]

Approximately ten to twelve minutes after the second attack began, Cho shot himself in his right temple with the Glock 19. He died in Jocelyne Couture-Nowak's Intermediate French class, room 211. During this second assault, he had fired at least 174 rounds,[27][78] killing thirty people and wounding seventeen more.[6]:92 All of the victims were shot at least three times each; of the thirty killed, twenty-eight were shot in the head.[79][80] During the investigation, State Police Superintendent William Flaherty told a state panel that police found 203 live rounds in Norris Hall. "He was well prepared to continue on," Flaherty testified.[81]

During the two attacks, Cho killed five faculty members and twenty-seven students before committing suicide by shooting himself.[82] The Virginia Tech Review Panel reported that Cho's gunshots wounded seventeen other people; six more were injured when they jumped from second-story windows to escape.[6]:92 Sydney J. Vail, the director of the trauma center at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, said that Cho's choice of 9 mm hollow-point ammunition increased the severity of the injuries.[83]

Perpetrator[edit]

Main article: Seung-Hui Cho

The shooter was identified as a senior at Virginia Tech, 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho, a South Korean citizen with U.S. permanent resident status majoring in English.

The Virginia Tech Review Panel's August 2007 report (Massengill Report) devoted more than 20 pages to Cho's troubled history.[3]:21[84]:31–53 At three years of age, Cho was described as shy, frail, and wary of physical contact.[85] In eighth grade, Cho was diagnosed with severe depression as well as selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that inhibited him from speaking.[86][87] While early media reports carried reports by South Korean relatives that Cho had autism,[88][89] the Massengill Report stated that the relationship between selective mutism and autism was "unclear".[84]:34–35 Cho's family sought therapy for him, and he received help periodically throughout middle school and high school.[84]:34–39 Early reports also indicated Cho was bullied for speech difficulties in middle school, but the Virginia Tech Review Panel was unable to confirm this, or other reports that he was ostracized and mercilessly bullied for class-, height-, and race-related reasons in high school, causing some anti-bullying advocates to feel that the Review Panel was engaging in an authority-absolving whitewash.[90][91] Supposedly, high school officials had worked with his parents and mental health counselors to support Cho throughout his sophomore and junior years. Cho eventually chose to discontinue therapy. When he applied and was admitted to Virginia Tech, school officials did not report his speech and anxiety-related problems or special education status because of federal privacy laws that prohibit such disclosure unless a student requests special accommodation.[87]

The Massengill Report detailed numerous incidents of aberrant behavior beginning in Cho's junior year of college that illustrated his deteriorating mental condition. Several former professors of Cho reported that his writing as well as his classroom behavior was disturbing, and he was encouraged to seek counseling.[92][93] He was also investigated by the university for stalking and harassing two female students.[14] In 2005, Cho had been declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice and ordered to seek outpatient treatment.[94]

The Virginia Tech Review Panel Report faulted university officials for failing to share information that would have shed light on the seriousness of Cho's problems, citing misinterpretations of federal privacy laws.[95][96] The report also pointed to failures by Virginia Tech's counseling center, flaws in Virginia's mental health laws, and inadequate state mental health services, but concluded that "Cho himself was the biggest impediment to stabilizing his mental health" in college.[84]:53 The report also stated that the classification detail that Cho was to seek "outpatient" rather than "inpatient" treatment would generally have been legally interpreted at the time as not requiring that Cho be reported to Virginia's Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE) and entered into the CCRE database of people prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm.[84]:60

Cho's underlying psychological diagnosis at the time of the shootings remains a matter of speculation. One professor tried to get him to seek counseling, but Cho chose not to.[97]

Early reports suggested that the killings resulted from a romantic dispute between Cho and Emily Hilscher, one of his first two victims. However, Hilscher's friends said she had no prior relationship with Cho and there is no evidence that he ever met or talked with her before the murders.[98] In the ensuing investigation, police found a suicide note in Cho's dorm room that included comments about "rich kids", "debauchery", and "deceitful charlatans". On April 18, 2007, NBC News received a package from Cho time-stamped between the first and second shooting episodes. It contained an 1,800-word manifesto, photos, and 27 digitally-recorded videos in which Cho likened himself to Jesus Christ and expressed his hatred of the wealthy.[25] He stated, among other things, "You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. ... You just loved to crucify me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terror in my heart and ripping my soul all this time".[99]

Media organizations, including Newsweek, MSNBC, Reuters, and the Associated Press, raised questions about and speculated on the similarity between a stance in one of Cho's videos which showed him holding and raising a hammer, and a pose from promotional posters for the South Korean movie Oldboy.[100][101][102] Investigators found no evidence that Cho had ever watched Oldboy, and the professor who made the initial connection to Oldboy has since discounted his theory that Cho was influenced by the movie.[103] The Virginia Tech Review Panel concluded that because of Cho's inability to handle stress and the "frightening prospect" of being "turned out into the world of work, finances, responsibilities, and a family," Cho chose to engage in a fantasy in which "he would be remembered as the savior of the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor, and the rejected."[104]:N-4–N-5 The panel went further, stating that, "His thought processes were so distorted that he began arguing to himself that his evil plan was actually doing good. His destructive fantasy was now becoming an obsession."[104]:N-5

Responses to the incidents[edit]

See also: Media coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting

Emergency services response[edit]

Police arrived within three minutes of receiving an emergency call but took about five minutes to enter the barricaded building. When they could not break the chains, an officer shot out a deadbolt lock leading into a laboratory; they then moved to a nearby stairwell.[4] As police reached the second floor, they heard Cho fire his final shot;[4][82] Cho's body was discovered in Jocelyne Couture-Nowak's classroom, room 211.[78]

In the aftermath, high winds related to the April 2007 nor'easter prevented emergency medical services from using helicopters for evacuation of the injured.[105] Victims injured in the shooting were treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital (now Lewis-Gale Hospital Montgomery) in Blacksburg, Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Radford, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Holston Valley Hospital in Kingsport, Tennessee, and Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem.[106]

University response[edit]

The university first informed students via e-mail at 9:26 a.m., about two hours after the first shooting, which was thought at the time to be isolated and domestic in nature.[107] After the full extent of the shooting became evident, Virginia Tech canceled classes for the rest of the week and held an assembly and candlelight vigil on April 17. Norris Hall was closed for the remainder of the semester.[108] The university offered counseling for students and faculty,[109] and the American Red Cross dispatched several dozen crisis counselors to Blacksburg to help students.[110] University officials also allowed students, if they chose, to abbreviate their semester coursework and still receive a grade.[111]

Within a day after the shootings, Virginia Tech, whose supporters call themselves "Hokies",[112] formed the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (HSMF) to help remember and honor the victims. The fund was used to cover expenses including, but not limited to: assistance to victims and their families, grief counseling, memorials, communications expenses, and comfort expenses.[113][114] Early in June 2007, the Virginia Tech Foundation announced that $3.2 million was moved from the HSMF into 32 separately-named endowment funds, each created in honor of a victim killed in the shooting. This transfer brought each fund to the level of full endowment, allowing them to operate in perpetuity. The naming and determination of how each fund would be directed was being developed with the victims' families. By early June 2007, donations to the HSMF had reached approximately $7 million.[115] In July 2007, Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served as Special Master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, was named to administer the fund's distributions.[116] In October 2007, the families and surviving victims received payments ranging from $11,500 to $208,000 from the fund.[117]

Also early in June 2007, the university announced it would begin reoccupying Norris Hall within a matter of weeks. The building is used for offices and laboratories for the Engineering Science and Mechanics and Civil and Environmental Engineering departments, its primary occupants before the shootings. Plans were to completely renovate the building and for it to no longer contain classrooms.[118] The southwest wing of Norris Hall, where the shootings took place, was closed in 2008 and completely renovated in 2008 and 2009. The building now houses the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, the Biomechanics Cluster Research Center, and the Global Technology Center, as well as other programs.[2]

Ambler Johnston Hall was also closed and renovated.[1] The east wing now houses the Honors Residential College,[119] which opened in fall 2011; in fall 2012, the west wing reopened as the Residential College at West Ambler Johnston.[120]

After the release of the Massengill Report, some parents of those killed called for Virginia's governor to relieve the university president, Charles Steger, and campus police chief, Wendell Flinchum, of their positions. However, Governor Tim Kaine refused to do so, saying that the school officials had "suffered enough".[121]

Campus response[edit]

In the hours and days following the shooting, makeshift memorials to those killed or injured began appearing in several locations on the campus. Many people placed flowers and items of remembrance at the base of the Drillfield observation podium in front of Burruss Hall. Later, members of Hokies United, an alliance of student organizations on campus created to respond to tragedies[122] placed 32 pieces of Hokie Stone, each labeled with the name of a victim, in a semicircle in front of the Drillfield viewing stand.[123] What was originally termed an "intermediate memorial" was modeled after the makeshift memorial. Thirty-two upright blocks of Hokie Stone were engraved with the names of the victims and placed in a semicircle at the base of the reviewing stand. The original pieces of Hokie Stone placed by Hokies United were offered to the families of the victims. The engraved markers are embedded in a semicircle of crushed gravel with a brick walkway for viewing.[123] There is ground lighting for nighttime illumination[124] and two benches, one on either side of the memorial, in honor of the survivors.[125]

Tech students of South Korean descent initially feared they would be targeted for retribution.[126][127] While no official claims of harassment were made, anecdotal evidence suggests that some Korean students were affected.[128]

The shootings occurred as prospective students were deciding whether to accept offers of admission from colleges and universities. Despite this timing, Virginia Tech exceeded its recruiting goal of 5,000 students for the class of 2011.[129]

Government response[edit]

President George W. Bush and his wife Laura attended the convocation at Virginia Tech the day after the shootings.[130] The Internal Revenue Service and Virginia Department of Taxation granted six-month extensions to individuals affected by the shootings.[131] Virginia Governor Tim Kaine returned early from a trade mission to Tokyo, Japan,[107] and declared a state of emergency in Virginia, enabling him to immediately deploy state personnel, equipment, and other resources in the aftermath of the shootings.[132]

Governor Kaine later created an eight-member panel, including former United States Secretary of Homeland SecurityTom Ridge, to review all aspects of the Virginia Tech shooting, from Cho's medical history to the school's delay in warning students of danger and locking down the campus after the bodies of Cho's first two victims were discovered.[133] In August 2007, the panel concluded, among more than twenty major findings, that the Virginia Tech Police Department "did not take sufficient action to deal with what might happen if the initial lead proved erroneous".[17]:2 The panel made more than seventy preventative recommendations, directed to colleges, universities, mental health providers, law enforcement officials, emergency service providers, law makers and other public officials in Virginia and elsewhere. While the panel did find errors in judgment and procedure, the ultimate conclusion was that Cho himself was responsible for his own actions, and to imply that anyone else was accountable "would be wrong". The Review Panel validated public criticisms that Virginia Tech police erred in "prematurely concluding that their initial lead in the double homicide was a good one," and in delaying a campus-wide notification for almost two hours.[17]:2 The report analyzed the feasibility of a campus lockdown and essentially agreed with police testimony that such an action was not feasible. The report concluded that the toll could have been reduced if the university had made an immediate decision to cancel classes and a stronger, clearer initial alert of the presence of a gunman.[9]:82, 84

The incident also caused Virginia Commonwealth elected officials to re-examine gaps between federal and state gun purchase laws. Within two weeks, Governor Kaine had issued an executive order designed to close those gaps (see Effects on gun politics below). Prompted by the incident, the federal government passed the first gun control law in more than a decade.[134] The bill, H.R. 2640, mandates improvements in state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in order to halt gun purchases by criminals, those declared mentally ill, and other people prohibited from possessing firearms, and authorizes up to $1.3 billion in federal grants for such improvements.[135] Both the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Rifle Association supported the legislation.[136] The measure passed the United States House of Representatives on a voice vote on June 13, 2007. The Senate passed the measure on December 19, 2007. President Bush signed the measure on January 5, 2008.[135] On March 24, 2008, the U.S. Department of Education announced proposed changes in the regulations governing education records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Certain of the changes address issues raised by the Virginia Tech incident and are intended to clarify for schools the appropriate balance to strike between concerns of individual privacy and public safety.[137]

South Korean response[edit]

When the citizenship of the shooter became known, South Koreans expressed shock and a sense of public shame,[138] while the government of South Korea convened an emergency meeting to consider possible ramifications.[139] A candlelight vigil was held outside the Embassy of the United States in Seoul. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun expressed condolences, saying that he hoped that the U.S. would recover quickly from the incident. Although Cho came to the U.S. as a third-grader and was a permanent resident of the U.S., many South Koreans felt guilt and mourned because they considered him a South Korean by "blood". One South Korean commentator opined that South Korean fears of xenophobic reprisals from Americans against them were from a South Korean-centric perspective not applicable to U.S. culture.[141] South Korea's ambassador to the U.S. and several Korean American religious leaders called on Korean Americans to participate in a 32-day fast, one day for each victim, for repentance.[142][143] The foreign minister, Song Minsoon, announced that safety measures had been established for South Korean citizens living in the U.S., in an apparent reference to fears of possible reprisal attacks.[144] A ministry official expressed hope that the shooting would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation".[126]

Some South Koreans criticized the fasting proposal, saying that it directed undue attention on Cho's ethnicity and not other reasons behind the shooting. News reports noted that South Koreans seemed relieved that American news coverage of Cho primarily focused the blame on his psychological problems rather than his race or ethnicity.[138] The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) pulled its "Sparkling Korea" television advertisements, saying it would be inappropriate to air the ads featuring images of South Korea's culture and natural beauty in between the news reports of the rampage.[145]

Academic/industry response[edit]

Hundreds of other colleges and universities throughout North America responded to the incident with official condolences and by conducting their own vigils, memorial services, and by other gestures of support.[146] Virginia Tech's traditional rival, the University of Virginia (U.Va.), held a candlelight vigil the night of April 17, at which U.Va. president John T. Casteen spoke. He urged the crowd of students, which overflowed the campus's McIntire Amphitheatre, to continue to move forward to change the world.[147]

Some schools also offered or provided cash donations, housing for officers, and additional counseling support for Virginia Tech.[148][149][150] Both inside the U.S. and abroad, the incident caused many universities to re-examine their own campus safety and security procedures as well as their mental health support services.[151][152]

Other responses[edit]

The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) convened a Special Review Task Force, which issued its report on April 18, 2008, titled, "The IACLEA Blueprint for Safer Campuses". The report was "a synthesis of the reports written following the tragedy at Virginia Tech and related recommendations for campus safety by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators". It included IACLEA's Key Recommendations, a Summary of 10 Key Findings of Virginia Governor's Review Panel, a listing of Fatal Shootings on U.S. Campuses, and the IACLEA Position Statement on Concealed-Carry Initiatives. The Task Force made twenty specific recommendations, representing "the Association's priorities for the betterment of campus safety" and reinforcing "key goals and objectives in mitigating and responding to threats at institutions of higher learning."[153] The report states, "IACLEA does not support the carry and concealment of weapons on a college campus, with the exception of sworn police officers in the conduct of their professional duties". The subsequent Position Statement goes into greater detail. Additionally, the report includes an acknowledgement of the "professionalism and well coordinated response" of all the law enforcement agencies and first responders, and ends its Conclusion with "Securing the safety of our campuses is an iterative process that requires an institutional and personal commitment from every member of our educational communities. Let these recommendations strengthen that resolve."[153]

EQUITAS, a Canada-based "Strategic Rule of law Think Tank" governed by international law, published a report pertaining to the Virginia Tech shooting which includes a review of measures for counter-terrorism and campus security adopted between 1993 and April 16, 2007.[154] The report criticizes Virginia Tech's institutional decision-making process and summarizes the lethal effects of failing to "implement and administer valid procedural and substantive safeguards aimed at securing the broad Va Tech and Blacksburg community against Level II type incidents involving acts of terrorism and mass casualties".[154] The report does not comment on gun control or mental health issues.

Some of Cho's family members expressed sympathy for the victims' families and described his history of mental and behavioral problems. Cho's maternal grandfather was quoted in the Daily Mirror referring to Cho as a person who deserved to die with the victims.[89] On Friday, April 20, Cho's family issued a statement of grief and apology, written by his sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, a 2004 graduate of Princeton University who was employed as a contractor for a State Department office. In it, she stated:

He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare. Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us. We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced. Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act.[155]

Many heads of state and international figures offered condolences and sympathy, including Pope Benedict XVI,[156] the Presidents of Chile, France, Mexico, Peru, and South Korea, the President-elect of Mauritania, the Prime Ministers of Greece and Japan, and the King of Morocco. Statements of condolence were issued by officials and diplomats from Canada, Georgia, Hungary, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Suriname, Thailand, and Venezuela. A State Department spokesman said, "We haven't seen this kind of sympathy and support since Hurricane Katrina and 9/11."[157] South Korean UN Secretary-GeneralBan Ki‑moon condemned the killings.[158]

On May 3, 2007, Queen Elizabeth II addressed the Virginia legislature, extending her sympathy on behalf of the United Kingdom. She then met privately with some faculty and survivors, including three who were wounded. One of the survivors of the shooting, Katelyn Carney, who was shot in the hand, presented the Queen with a bracelet of thirty-two jewels in the Virginia Tech colors—maroon and orange. The Queen subsequently visited Jamestown, Virginia, to mark the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the United States, which was the primary purpose of her trip.[159][160]

Sporting teams and leagues at both the college[161] and professional[162] levels, as well as sports figures from football,[163] baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer,[164] and NASCAR racing, paid their respects and joined fundraising efforts to honor the victims, most notably the Washington Nationals, who wore Virginia Tech hats in a game,[165] and D.C. United, who wore special Virginia Tech jerseys during a game;[166] NASCAR put Virginia Tech decals on all its cars for three weeks.[167]East Carolina University made a $100,000 donation, raised at the behest of its Athletics Director, Terry Holland.[168] East Carolina was the opponent for Virginia Tech's opening home football game at Lane Stadium on September 1, 2007, with more than 60,000 in attendance. Prior to the kickoff, thirty-two orange balloons were released in memory of the victims.[169][170]

On July 30, 2007, after it came to light that Seung-Hui Cho had purchased two 10-round magazines on eBay for one of the guns used in the shootings, the online auctioneer prohibited the sale of firearms magazines, firearms parts, and ammunition components on its site.[171][172]

In May 2010, the American band Exodus released an album, titled, Exhibit B: The Human Condition, which included the track "Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)". Band member Gary Holt stated, "The song was primarily inspired by the massacre at Virginia Tech, as well as Columbine and the many other instances of unhinged individuals who decided to take out their wrath on their classmates, going all the way back to Charles J. Whitman."[173]

Controversial responses[edit]

Two students at Pennsylvania State University dressed as Virginia Tech shooting victims for Halloween in 2007, posting their photos on Facebook, which generated outrage at both Penn State and Virginia Tech.[174] Penn State sent a statement to Virginia Tech, stating, "We're appalled that these individuals would display this level of insensitivity and lack of common decency by dressing up in this manner. The fact that one of the individuals is actually from Virginia makes it even more difficult to understand."[175]

An amateur computer video game that re-creates the shooting, V-Tech Rampage, also sparked outrage.[176] The creator, Ryan Lambourn, a resident of Sydney, Australia, who grew up in the United States,[176]

Elementary French class students take cover in Holden Hall room 212.
One of the self-portraits Cho included with manifesto sent to NBC News
Before their 2007 football opener, the Hokies released 32 balloons as a part of a ceremony in the victims' memory.
Permanent memorial on Virginia Tech's Drillfield
President George W. Bush with Virginia Tech Student Government Association President James Tyger after Bush's speech at the school's convocation

(Image: Polka Dot/Thinkstock)

Whether you’re applying for an undergraduate school or trying to get into graduate programs, many applications require a letter of intent or personal statement. Personal statements are one of the most important parts of the application and sometimes the deciding factor for admission.

Personal statements give a better understanding of who you are, beyond the rigid constraints of the “fill-in-the-blank” application.

Like many around this time of the year, I am finishing my graduate school applications. Looking for advice and guidance, I decided to compare different schools’ personal statement requirements and ask admissions offices for advice. Here’s what I found:

1. Be yourself

The Columbia Graduate School for Journalism encourages students to write about family, education, talents or passions. They want to hear about significant places or events in your life; about books you have read, people you have met or work you’ve done that has shaped the person you have become.

Schools want to know about you so don’t portray someone else in the essay. It’s almost like going on a first date. You want to display your best qualities but be yourself at the same time. You want the other person to like you, not someone you’re pretending to be.

2. Show diversity

Rayna Reid, a personal statement guru, received her undergraduate degree at Cornell, Masters at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing a Law degree at Columbia. Reid says a personal statement is really just a way to make the college fall in love with you.

“The essay is where you really get a chance to differentiate yourself from the other applicants,” she said. “Explain why they should accept you. What will you contribute?”

Sean Carpenter, University of Southern California Student Services Associate and undergraduate student, reiterates the importance of differentiating yourself from other applicants.

He works in the Annenberg School for Communication admissions office and deals with prospective students daily. Carpenter says USC or any major school want to see diversity.

“They want to see how you’re different from all other applicants, especially through diversity. What makes you unique out of all the other applicants?” Carpenter said, “Tell things that has helped you grow as a person and built your character.”

3. Do research and tailor each essay accordingly

Every college is different, so each personal statement should be different. Many students try to get away with having a universal essay but admissions departments will notice.

“Do research to give concrete reasons why you’re interested in particular program,” Carpenter said. “Speak with a faculty member that you’re interested in working with or doing research for and mention that in your statement. It would also be beneficial to say what classes you’ve taken that were relevant to the field of study.”

4. Be concise and follow directions

Make sure you read the directions carefully. One of the biggest red flags for an admissions office are students who don’t adhere to word limitations. Don’t give them a reason to throw out your application.

Believe it or not, there is a way to say everything you want in a page or less. If you need some help, ask several faculty members to read over your essay and give you feedback.

5. Go beyond your resume, GPA and test scores

Many students worry about how their GPA and test scores will affect the admissions process. The personal statement is an opportunity to explain any strengths or weaknesses in your application — such as changes in major, low GPA or lack of experience.

For instance, Reid was worried about not having a 4.0 GPA. Since Reid didn’t have the perfect GPA, she explained what she did with her time to make up for that fact. Being on the Varsity rowing team and a Teach for America Corp member are great examples of how devoting her time to other things made an impact on her GPA.

6. Tell a story

“Nothing makes someone fall in love like a good story. It does not have to be the next Pulitzer winner,” Reid said. “For college, one essay I wrote was about how I have often felt like my life was a movie and how Dirty Dancing (yes, the movie) changed my life. My sister who currently goes to Princeton even wrote about killing a fly!”

One of the worst things you can do is bore the admission officer. Make yourself memorable by telling a story about something distinctive from a creative or different angle.

With this advice, your personal statement will be the highlight of your application. Good luck!

Alexis Morgan is currently a senior at Penn State University. She has extensive experience in public relations, broadcast journalism, print journalism and production. Alexis truly believes if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Follow Alexis’s career on her website.

Alexis Morgan, Columbia University, Cornell University, grad school, Penn State University, the application, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, COLLEGE CHOICE, VOICES FROM CAMPUS 

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