Monday, April 23, 2007
Professor finds slain student's test on desk
Professor Mohammed Hajj says he knew going back inside Norris Hall would be emotional. "What we heard, what we saw, was pretty bad," says Hajj as he talks about being in his office when the gun shots started last Monday, and taking cover as the shooting continued a floor below.

Investigators say as many as 225 shots were fired inside Norris Hall. To the world, Norris Hall is the site of the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history -- a stone building with yellow police tape where terrified students jumped out of windows and where the lives of 30 innocent victims came to a tragic end.

For the Virginia Tech engineering science department, Norris Hall has been home for the past 70 years, a building where thousands of young minds have been educated and where professors like Hajj have spent much of their lives teaching and doing research.

"It means a lot to us," says Hajj.

For a few hours on Thursday, the Virginia state police allowed Hajj and other members of the engineering faculty a few minutes to retrieve materials inside Norris Hall. Each person that went in was escorted by both a member of the Virginia state police and a mental health professional. The second floor, where the killings took place, remained sealed off.

Professor Bill Smith has been at Virginia Tech for more than 50 years. He's retired, but still has a desk on the third floor. He came to retrieve some books. "The locks on all the doors are ripped off, but otherwise it looks the same," says Smith.

Three engineering professors were killed during the massacre: G.V. Loganathan, who professor Hajj describes as "every students' favorite professor;" Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor who witnesses say died holding a door closed so his class could jump out of a window; and Kevin Granata, a husband and father of two young children who, according to staff, was considered one of the brightest members of the department.

"Some of the faculty members tell me they don't know if they'll ever be able to go back," says Ishwar Puri, who's head of the engineering science and mechanics department. Puri says most of the people that went back to Norris Hall "broke down."

Hajj says when he went back he was able to keep his composure, until he walked into his office and saw a stack of test papers on his desk. The exam on top had been taken by a graduate student by the name of Juan Ortiz, one of eight engineering students killed. Hajj says that's when he started to cry.

"Suddenly you're looking at the test and you see that he's not there to get his grade anymore, and for no reason," says Hajj.

What happens to Norris Hall is up in the air. A few have suggested it be torn down; others think that for the university to move on it should open up as soon as possible.

"I don't know what will happen," says Hajj. "But I would like to stay in Norris Hall. It means a lot."

--By Ted Rowlands, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 11:44 AM ET
  4 Comments
Ted,

I was thinking about these nice people as well as Professor Librescu this weekend. The heros were the topic of the sermon on Sunday morning.

Then I remembered a visit to the Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, FL.

I had written down a thought from a plaque at the museum. Suddenly it all made sense to me. Professor Librescu was not going to be a bystander.

"Thou shalt not be a victim,
thou shalt not be a perpetrator,
above all, thou shalt not be a bystander." --- Yehuda Bauer, historian and Holocaust Scholar

How many of us are bystanders in our own homes and communities?

Think about it.
Posted By Anonymous Renee Bradenton, FL : 12:36 PM ET
As difficult as returning to Norris Hall might be it is probably the right thing to do. People have to go back and live in homes where they have lost family members. Norris Hall should become a place where years of good memories mingle with one day of tragedy. The many years of positive influence should be allowed to live on. It's the belief that good will always overcome evil and if Norris Hall is torn down due to the actions on one "evil" person on one dark day then evil will have won. God bless each professor and student that enters the doors of that building. May they all discover a sense of calm and comfort in the days ahead.
Posted By Anonymous Zann Martin, Tennessee : 1:23 PM ET
This is a poem which my 12 year old son wrote as part of his english assignment and I would like to submit that.

Gunshots…….

Loud sound
People on the ground
People screaming
Now thinking of it with meaning

A man gone mad
Millions of people sad
Families in hand
Disappearing into the sand

A school by morning
A massacre by evening
We will remember this tragic event

Hokies, strong enough to keep their spirits up
Hokies, sentimental enough to cry for their fallen friends

We will live to fight another day,
The only line we have to say

"Go Hokies"

In honor of all the people killed in the Virginia tech massacre
Posted By Anonymous Ranganath Charyulu, Sterling, VA : 1:53 PM ET
This article has really brought home all of the hurt that not only Virginia Tech is feeling, but also all of America. I weep for everyone touched by this horrific tradgedy. For everyone who lost a teacher, a friend, a parent, a child... we are praying for you. May God give you the peace and comfort that only He can give.
Posted By Anonymous Sally Hodges, Madison MS : 2:38 PM ET
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