Students return to Virginia campus

Published April 23, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Still grieving and increasingly wary of the media spotlight, Virginia Tech students returned to their beleaguered campus Sunday, preparing to salvage the final weeks of a semester eclipsed by violence.

When classes resume today, the university will give students three choices: They can continue their studies through the end of the semester next week, take a grade based on what they have done so far, or withdraw from a course without penalty.

"I want to go back. It's just really strange to just stop going," said Paul Deyerle, a sophomore from Roanoke who was helping a friend move belongings from the dormitory where another close friend, Ryan Clark, was among those killed April 16 in the worst shooting massacre in modern U.S. history.

A number of students living in West Ambler Johnston Hall have asked to be relocated elsewhere.

"I need to keep going back," Deyerle said, struggling for words. "It seems like every other facet of my life is different now, so I have to."

Virginia Tech officials say their top priority is the victims' families, and they have given each of them a private e-mail address and direct phone number for president Charles Steger.

Administrators have canceled big events such as the spring football game and postponed a fundraising campaign. The goal is to restart academic life without pushing the university's 26,000 students too hard.

State police plan to maintain a security presence on campus at least through today.

There are other tough decisions that sleepless university officials have not had time to consider, such as what to do with Norris Hall, the blood-soaked building where 31 people died, including shooter Seung-Hui Cho.

Students say they welcome the outpouring of support they have received, but they have grown noticeably weary of the news media. The Student Government Association asked reporters to leave by the start of classes today.

"Our students are ready to start moving forward, and the best way we can do that is to get the campus back to normal," said Liz Hart, director of public relations for the association. Students don't want "anything external remind to us it will be a difficult road. We know that."

The school suffered another tragedy this weekend. Freshman Jeff Soriano died in a car crash Friday, his father, Enrique, said Sunday. Soriano's vehicle flipped several times, struck a tree and caught on fire, investigators said. The cause was not known.

Fast Facts:

Autopsy findings

Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho fired enough shots to wound his 32 victims more than 100 times before killing himself with a bullet to his head, a medical examiner said Sunday.

Dr. William Massello, the assistant medical examiner based in Roanoke, said pathologists have sent blood samples for toxicology testing to determine if Cho was on drugs at the time of his rampage. It could take as long as two weeks to get the results.

Cho died from a gunshot to his temple, Massello said. Even if his brain had been intact, it's unlikely that doctors would have been able to use it to detect if Cho suffered from a mental illness. Such disorders are usually neurological or chemical in nature and are not detectable during an autopsy, Massello said.

Massello said autopsy reports are being typed, and he was unsure when they would formally be completed and released.