Students try to deal with crushing grief
Students have the option leaving campus before the semester ends.
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- On the day the gunman ran loose on her beloved Virginia Tech campus, Amanda Kelly felt that she had to get away.
She and her boyfriend, Shawn Pullum, drove three hours to her parents' home. But that same night, they decided they would be better off coping with their grief in a familiar setting and returned to their apartment near campus.
Now Kelly and Pullum find, like so many others, they are far from regaining a semblance of normalcy in their leafy college town.
"It is difficult to find any routine," said Kelly, 23, a graduate student studying sociology, as she sat Thursday at a coffee shop. "You find yourself watching the coverage nonstop, and it only makes you feel worse. We've had to force ourselves to pull away from it."
As details of the rampage continue to surface, this bucolic community in southwestern Virginia is sagging under the strains of the most deadly shooting spree in U.S. history.
The airing of parts of a videotaped statement by Cho Seung-Hui and the publishing of his menacing photos seemed to exacerbate the pain of the Virginia Tech community and spark a backlash of anger against the hundreds of journalists gathered in Blacksburg.
"Seeing the pictures of him pointing the gun right into the camera ... it really hurt," Pullum said. "I think it's causing a lot of people to say, 'Just let us grieve."'
Options for semester
Classes at Virginia Tech are canceled until next week, but university officials said Thursday they don't expect all the students will be emotionally ready to return to campus so soon.
Mark McNamee, university provost and vice president for academic affairs, said students will have the choice of how they will complete the current semester, including leaving campus now and letting their work to date provide their final grade.
Students who remained on the mostly empty campus greeted the decision with relief. Many said that coping with the tragedy has been unimaginably difficult, and they worry that concentrating on schoolwork will be near impossible.