Gunman kills 32 at Virginia Tech Students quick to call parents back in Maine

This story was published on April 17, 2007 on Page A1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

The first call Virginia Tech University student Charlee Simpson made after learning of Monday’s deadly shootings was to her boyfriend and fellow student, Justin Irish.

Her second call was to her dad in Bangor.

Simpson, 21, and Irish, 22, are from the Bangor area and both were unharmed in the attacks.

Simpson immediately wanted to let people who care about her know that she was OK.

“It’s just a shock,” she said by phone Monday afternoon from her dorm room at Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus. “I came here because it was a small college town. I moved from Maine because [Blacksburg is] small.

“People are just nervous right now,” Simpson said. “I think people are still kind of in shock.”

Simpson is a marketing major who graduated from Bangor High School in 2003.

Irish, a senior, is a finance major who graduated from John Bapst Memorial High School in 2003. He is from Glenburn and was studying in nearby Roanoke when the shootings occurred, she said.

It wasn’t clear Monday precisely how many Virginia Tech students are from Maine.

The 2,600-acre campus has more than 100 buildings and more than 25,000 full-time students.

“I was actually in a class, probably at 8:30 [a.m.], when one of my friends IM’d [instant messaged] me and said her [resident assistant] came to her room and told her not to leave her room,” Simpson said. “At 9:30 [a.m.] I got an e-mail from the school saying there was a shooting.

“Then we just got e-mails throughout the day,” she said.

She voiced frustration with what she believes was a lack of quick communication from the school. “Why didn’t I get an e-mail until 9:30?” The first shootings, in a dorm, occurred about 7:30 a.m. A second round of shootings occurred two hours later.

Simpson, a junior who transferred to Virginia Tech from Eastern Maine Community College, said she is fortunate to have avoided the mayhem.

“At one point, I was a few buildings away but before the big incident happened,” she said. “I was never near anything that happened.”

Jennifer Simpson, Charlee’s stepmother, said Monday afternoon that she felt relieved that Charlee was unharmed, but that she and Charlee’s father were still uneasy.

“It’s very unnerving for everyone,” she said.

At least three other Virginia Tech students from Maine joined Simpson and Irish in the wait to learn exactly what happened on their campus.

Natalie Keene of Canton, Casey Marstaller of North Yarmouth and Katharine “Katie” Pike of Cornish are dairy science students at Virginia Tech. They all are fine, Pike said by phone from her dorm room.

“I feel like it hasn’t even hit me yet,” said Pike, a freshman. “It’s kind of surreal.”

Even before TV news had broadcast word of the shootings, Pike was on the phone with her parents.

She “wanted to be the first one to let them know” she was alive and well, she said. “Friends started calling me when they saw it on TV.”

Pike said her roommate heard the sound of the gunman’s second shots, which occurred around 9:30 a.m.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “Everyone here pretty much feels the same – we’re all in shock.

Even though the campus population is fairly large, “we’re so close,” Pike said. “We’re right here. To make U.S. history in such a tragic way is heartbreaking.

“I think everyone’s heart is going out to the families” of those affected, she said.

A1 for Tuesday, April 17, 2007

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