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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Virginia Tech Holds Candlelight Vigil; Identity of Shooting Suspect Revealed
Aired April 17, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us, as we continue with CNN's breaking news coverage of the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre.
All through this incredibly touching day, I have watched people's numbness and disbelief melt into tears and prayers.
Some of those who, along with President Bush, attended a memorial convocation shared their stories with me. I will bring them to you in just a little bit.
But, as we speak, right behind me, students are gathering for a candlelight vigil at the very heart of this campus.
And Carol Costello is right there in the middle of them.
I know, from your perspective, how many folks it looks like are filling in there, Carol, but, from here, it looks like thousands.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're right about that, Paula. There are thousands of people here, most of them students, some parents, and certainly many friends of the victims.
And while this is a solemn occasion, it is also a lot about strength. Students up there are signing this big plywood -- big piece of plywood painted white. And on it are slogans that say "Stay Strong," "Go, Hokies."
I mean, the students want to remember. And they want to remember the sadness, but they also want to remember how wonderful this university is.
I want to talk to this group of students right here.
Girls, may I speak to you?
What's your name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Britney Farrell (ph).
COSTELLO: Britney (ph), I noticed a lot of students are wearing their Virginia Tech shirts. Why did you wear your shirt today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to show that we're all united. We still love our school. It's -- just because something bad happened doesn't mean it's not a good school. It's -- we still -- we just feel the pain and we just want to show our pride, basically.
COSTELLO: And I notice that a lot. And you said it best earlier, when we couldn't control our tears together, that there is sadness here. But there's also hope. Can you expound for me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we're just -- I -- I actually -- we're still really proud to be Hokies. And we're all here for each other. And we know it. And that's the only way we will get over it, is to stick together and be strong for each other.
COSTELLO: And I noticed students doing that all day, students hugging one another, talking to one another, going to Norris Hall, looking at the hall together. What was that like?
COSTELLO: I know.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's comforting to know that you could go to anybody. I was just hugging someone I have never even met before, because you just need -- you need people to be there for you.
COSTELLO: And you certainly have a lot of people around you tonight. Thank you for talking with us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very thankful.
COSTELLO: We appreciate it.
Want to talk to one more group of people, these people.
You're longtime employees here for...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About a year-and-a-half.
COSTELLO: About a year-and-a-half?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
COSTELLO: So, why did you decide to come tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're part of the community. I grew up around here. Blacksburg is home for me. And working here and just having close ties to the community, it felt like the right thing to do, to be here tonight.
COSTELLO: And I see that you're also wearing your Virginia Tech shirt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
COSTELLO: And I notice so many students and faculty and employees are saying, you know what? We don't want our university to be remembered for this horrible, tragic thing. Can you expound on that for me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I think the turnout tonight just shows what a strong community this is and how proud everybody is to be a part of it.
And I think that the community will pull together and supports the student and the staff and the faculty. And they will get through it.
COSTELLO: What do you think it will it be like next week, when classes resume?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's going to be hard to say. Obviously, these -- these buildings here, where all this happened, is -- it's places that I pass by every day. And I work with a lot of students in the classrooms. And I don't know if there's going to be any empty seats. And that's going to be the hardest part.
COSTELLO: When all of the candles are lit at some point tonight, and everyone is sitting on the ground and not saying anything, what will you be thinking?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will be thinking about the families that lost loved ones, and just keeping them in my thoughts and prayers.
COSTELLO: Thank you both very much. I really appreciate it.
Paula, an emotional crowd. But, again, they want to draw together and show their strength. And they want their university remembered for the better things, not for this one horrible incident.
ZAHN: And, Carol, I guess what has struck me the most today is how many people have come from surrounding universities and surrounding communities to pay their respect for all the lost life here. It is really remarkable, how -- how this whole community has come together.
COSTELLO: It is remarkable.
You know, I talked to some students who lost a friend at Norris Hall. He was shot and killed in French class. He was from Peru. He spoke four languages. Oddly enough, he was in Washington, D.C., when that plane hit the Pentagon in 2001. He came to Virginia Tech to take international studies, so he could change the world.
You know, I heard so many stories like that, Paula, on campus. It's just hard not to cry.
ZAHN: Yes. There have been a lot of us crying here today. About every third person you talk to brings you to tears.
Carol Costello, thanks so much.
Back to the investigation now -- earlier this morning, police identified the shooting suspect as 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, a native of South Korea. He called himself Seung Cho. Throughout the day, we have been tracking some of his movements, hearing from his acquaintances, and even studying his own disturbing writings. What emerges is a picture of a deeply disturbed, intensely angry young man.
And CNN's Ted Rowlands has the very latest on that.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Paula, you talk to people that lived in the dorm where he lived in, nobody seemed to know him, very quiet, didn't know that they had a ticking time bomb next to them.
But we talked to an old English teacher. It is a much different story. She was so concerned, she went to police and warned them that there could be problems with this young man. They didn't do anything at the time, because he hadn't done anything against the law.
She's now hoping for change. And, you listen to her, and you realize that the warning signs definitely were there, especially if you read this young man's writings.
ROWLANDS (voice-over): People who knew him described 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui as a quiet loner. And many of them saw clear signs of problems long before the shooting rampage.
The most disturbing evidence that he might be a young man in trouble came from his writing. In fact, a former Virginia Tech English teacher says, she was so disturbed by some of Cho's work as a student, she urged him to get counseling.
Last year, Cho wrote this one-act play filled with hate and violence. It could be a window into a disturbed mind. The play, called "Richard McBeef," features a young man who hates his stepfather. At one point, he yells: "I hate dick. Must kill Dick. Must kill Dick. Dick must die."
The boy's mother in the play brandishes a chain saw. This play written by Cho ends with the stepfather murdering the boy.
The few people who say they knew Cho described him as extremely quiet.
SHANE MORE, CLASSMATE OF CHO SEUNG-HUI: You know, there's always kids in high school or just school that are always quiet. They just stick to themselves. They don't want to be bothered by nobody, but nothing too unusual. He was just a regular, shy kid.
ROWLANDS: Cho was born in South Korea. He came to the United States at the age of 8. He attended Westfield High School in Centreville, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.
Erin Peterson and Reema Samaha, two of Cho's victims, attended the same high school. But there's no indication at this point that they were specific targets. Cho's parents still live in Centreville. The family home was searched last night by investigators. Today, the house was quiet. Neighbors had nothing significant to add about the family or about the 23-year-old English student who was responsible for the single worst shooting incident in modern U.S. history.
ROWLANDS: And, while the parents are keeping a low profile, they're not talking to media yet. We understand from family friends that they are understandably just heartbroken and shocked that their son could be capable of doing something like this.
ZAHN: I don't know about you, but what that former head of the English department had to say is chilling enough.
But I understand we're beginning to get other pieces of the puzzle filled in about exactly who this man was from roommates of his.
ROWLANDS: He kept a low profile, but it seems like people very close to him did have warning signs. And, later in the show, we are going to hear from some roommates that have some equally chilling things. And, if you put them all together, boy, I think the signs were there.
ZAHN: And that is the important question we have to address tonight. Why so many red flags all but ignored?
ROWLANDS: Exactly, in different parts -- you know, different people had different versions of that red flag, but nobody seemed to come together and nothing was done.
ZAHN: Ted Rowlands, thanks.
Jummy Olabanji went to the same high school as the attacker, and also knows the family of one of the victims.
And Jummy joins us now.
Thank you so much for being with us tonight.
JUMMY OLABANJI, WCAV REPORTER: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: What do you remember about Cho?
OLABANJI: You know, Paula, honestly, I don't remember much, just because, in high school, he was so quiet. He was just somebody that you would pass every day in the hallways, too. He wouldn't say hi to you, so, you probably necessarily wouldn't say hi back to him.
He just went about his business, went to class. And me and my friends, we did the same thing. So, I really -- I just remember him as a quiet person who didn't have much interaction with anybody else in the school.
ZAHN: So, in spite of that lack of interaction, though, I assume he had developed some kind of reputation. What was it?
OLABANJI: Really just a reputation as one of the quiet kids and one of the loners, kind of I don't want to say outcast, but there -- there was -- we had a small high school class. So, there was a large majority of our class who always talked, was always hanging out.
And he, unfortunately, I guess, wasn't one of those ones who was around everybody a lot of the time. So, he really was antisocial.
ZAHN: And I don't know how much of the reporting you have been able to listen to today, but the former head of the English department here at Virginia Tech talked about how alarmed she was in 2005 by reading some of his writings, that she actually went to the police, actually removed him from another professor's English class, and started to tutor him one on one.
Do you remember anything unusual about what he wrote in high school?
OLABANJI: No. Actually, I wasn't familiar with his writing at all in high school. I do. I heard from some people who I went to high school with that he was a writer and that he was very kind of artsy and creative and always kind of seen writing. But I personally never saw him writing.
ZAHN: So, when you heard the news for the first time yesterday, what was it that went through your mind?
OLABANJI: You know, when I first heard what had happened, I was shocked. And, then, today, when the identity was released, and I found out that he -- he went to high school with me, and I -- then, I saw his face for the first time on TV this morning, I definitely immediately recognized his face.
And I was just really shocked that somebody that I went to high school with could have done something like this, because our high school was a very well known high school. Everybody really got along, friendly kids. And, then, when I heard that two of the victims also went to our high school, I -- it just even brought more shock to my heart, more pain to my heart. I just couldn't believe that all of this was happening.
ZAHN: And that victim is Reema Samaha, who we are going to talk about a little bit later on in this hour.
Jummy, thank you so much for joining us at this very difficult time. Appreciate it.
OLABANJI: Thank you.
ZAHN: Even at this hour, we're still getting more new information in about the killer -- next, an exclusive interview with two of the killer's former roommates and a look inside the mind of a killer from a master criminologist, also, a survivor from one classroom where almost no one got out alive.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADEEL KHAN, STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: These people are our family. The people who have been hurt are our family. We're going to be there for our family. We're not going to leave this school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Tonight, an outpouring of grief on the campus of Virginia Tech.
Right now, behind me, thousands of students, administration staff members are getting ready to hold a candlelight vigil, remembering the 32 people who died in the worst carnage on a school campus in U.S. history.
Moments after the horrendous killing spree finally ended, police found two guns with the body of the shooter. Tonight, we now know much more about those weapons.
Investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has spent the day tracing them, learning everything he can about the guns, and how Cho got his hands on them in the first place. He is here now to explain to us what he has found out.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: And, Paula, and the context of this show how easy it was for this man to get these weapons in his hands without any information about any of this stuff we're reporting about his past.
It was a chillingly simplistic 10-minute transaction in a gun shop about 40 minutes' drive from where we sit right now. Cho, 36 days ago, went to Roanoke Firearms, put down a credit card, paid $571, and walked out with a Glock 19, a .9-millimeter gun with 50 rounds of ammunition.
That's the first gun traced to that shop, not by the serial number on the gun, Paula, but on the receipt that he was carrying that they found on his dead body. He had filed away the serial numbers in three different spots on that Glock .9-millimeter, which makes no sense, because he's carrying the receipt.
ZAHN: No, that he would be that careless.
GRIFFIN: And now they have got another gun, too, the .22- millimeter, which they have also now raised the serial number on. We don't know where that came from.
But this first gun purchased 36 days ago, and the owner of the shop says it was just unremarkable. There was nothing about this guy that was any kind of red flag.
ZAHN: He readily provided all three forms of identification? No problem with that?
GRIFFIN: John Markell is the owner's name, Paula. We had a chance to interview him. This is what he said about the transaction and how this young man came into his store.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MARKELL, OWNER, ROANOKE FIREARMS: He had three forms of I.D. In order to buy a handgun, you have to be older than 21 and be a Virginia resident.
So, he had a driver's license. That established his residency. Then he had his checkbook. The address on his checkbook matched the address on the license. And he had his INS card. So, he filled out the paperwork. We called it in to the state police. They ran the background check. And he was cleared.
GRIFFIN: Nothing odd about this fellow?
MARKELL: Not at all. He was very low key.
GRIFFIN: You mentioned clean-cut?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And nothing odd about the amount of ammunition he bought?
GRIFFIN: He buys the gun. The gun comes with two clips. They're empty. And, usually, you buy one box of ammunition. Now, the owner said, obviously, somewhere along the line, somewhere in these past 36 days, this guy bought a lot more ammunition and probably a couple more clips.
ZAHN: Still don't understand the carelessness of leaving the receipt in the backpack.
ZAHN: Go figure.
GRIFFIN: It doesn't make any sense, but what does?
ZAHN: Drew, thank you.
ZAHN: Particularly the massacre here on campus.
Our Gary Tuchman joins us now because he has spoken exclusively with two of the gunman's former roommates.
Gary, what did they tell you? We have heard what the English teacher had to say. And that was pretty chilling stuff, in and of itself.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And this, too, is chilling, Paula.
Their names are John (ph) and Andy (ph). They're not wanting us to use their last names, but they're juniors here at Tech. Last year, when they were sophomores, the entire year, they lived with Cho in a four-room suite. There were eight guys in the suite. So, those were three of the guys.
They lived with him a whole year, they say he virtually said nothing the entire year. They say he was the strangest person they had ever met. Nevertheless, they did not think he was a murderer. But they had big problems with him. They say he was a stalker, that at least three girls on the floor, he stalked them; he would send them instant messages using the identification question mark, so the girls didn't know who they were getting these e-mails from.
He would learn everything he could about them. He would go up to their doors. I told you he would barely ever talk. I mean, he never uttered a word. One time he did talk to his roommates, John and Andy, he told them about going face to face with one of the girls he stalked.
He said: I wanted to come up to her eye to eye, because I wanted to look in her eyes, and see what was in her eyes. And, inside her eyes, I saw promiscuity.
At that point, John and Andy told him, you should not be stalking women. These are our friends.
He got very upset, sent them an instant message, saying, "I want to kill myself."
At that point, John and Andy got worried. They called campus police. Campus police came over to the dorm. They sent him to a counseling center, where he spent at least one or two nights, as they watched over him after he made his death threat. And then he came back to the dorm.
So, it appears that the university was aware this guy had problems. They say he never had any companions at all the entire year, not his family, not his friends, inside the dorm. They say he never had a girlfriend, but he did have an imaginary companion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, did you ever have -- sit down and have a conversation with him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never more than a couple words, other than the one time when we went out to a party, and he opened up, and said he had an imaginary girlfriend.
TUCHMAN: He told you he had an imaginary girlfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TUCHMAN: And what prompted him to say that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had been drinking, so I guess he had just decided to open up.
TUCHMAN: So, he had a few beers, and he opened up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
TUCHMAN: And what did he say about an imaginary girlfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He called her -- was it...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Jelly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jelly. And she called him Spanky.
TUCHMAN: Spanky and Jelly?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And that was that.
TUCHMAN: And what did he say about this imaginary girlfriend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was a supermodel, I think.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: They also tell us that he would play the same song over and over again on his computer laptop. That song was by the group Collective Soul. The song is called "Shine." We don't know the significance of that particular song for him, but it is a wonderful song.
But he would play it over and over and over again. And they said they were kind to him. They didn't tell him to turn it off.
We should mention to you, Paula, they say he never talked about guns. They say they never saw any weapons. And, while they're stunned and surprised that he committed these murders, when they heard it was an Asian male, they thought to themselves, I wonder if it was Cho.
ZAHN: Well, he certainly had a lot of violence in his writing, which is something, Gary, we're going to go into in greater detail tonight.
Thank you so much.
And Gary is going to have much more from Cho's roommates on "A.C. 360" at 10:00 p.m. tonight.
The picture we're getting tonight of Cho is that of an angry loner with a very dark imagination. But what could have turned him into a mass killer?
Let's ask Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, who writes and lectures about mass killers.
Thanks so much for being with us tonight, Jack.
JACK LEVIN, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY AND CRIMINOLOGY, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Hi.
ZAHN: Of all of the new details that are emerging about this man, is there one in particular that you could point to that raises a very serious red flag?
LEVIN: Well, you know, Paula, there are warning signs in these cases. And, certainly, Cho seems to have had a lot of red flags in his biography.
The problem, of course, is that, after a massacre happens, everybody becomes a psychologist and recognizes all of these warning signs. Beforehand, this bizarre and strange and even crazy behavior is kind of ignored. It doesn't seem dangerous.
But I would say that, if you look at the profile, the fact that he was socially isolated, that he had no place to turn -- he didn't have, apparently, friends and family around to give him encouragement and support.
Now, of course, there are millions of people in that situation. They don't kill anybody. But it seems to me that, when you put that together, the social isolation, with the fact that I believe he suffered some catastrophic losses -- I'm not sure whether it was the loss of a girlfriend, the loss of money, the loss of his position on the campus, or maybe all of those things.
But suffering this kind of loss as a precipitant probably pushed him over the edge. You're talking about an extremely depressed person.
ZAHN: Jack, hang on one second.
ZAHN: I want to pause, because we are standing about 500 yards away from this candlelight vigil now, where the "Taps" are being played. I just want to show you the crowd as we continue our conversation, and just listen to the impact that the ceremony has tonight.
Jack, I'm not sure if it came through as clearly through the microphone as it is to all of our ears. But we have seen such tremendous pain here today. And you certainly can feel that coming off the crowd tonight.
Let's come back to the issue of his writing. And we know that one of his English teachers pulled him out of a class and actually started to tutor him one on one, told the police about this writing, told the administration about his writing.
If you were to have seen this, his work from a playwriting class where he wrote, "I want to kill him, Jane" -- this is talking about his stepfather -- "I want to make him bleed, like the way he made us kids bleed," would that have alarmed you?
LEVIN: Well, I'm sure it would have alarmed me.
However, I have to put this in perspective, after having studied these mass killers for more than 25 years. And I can tell you that they usually do not issue a threat beforehand. Those people who threaten usually don't follow through. And those who follow through usually don't threaten.
And, you know, keep in mind that we could be talking about novelist Stephen King, who also fantasized about violence, and wrote prolifically about it. Of course, he went on and became a big success.
I -- you know, I would be concerned about this. There's no question about it. But the question is, then, what do you do with that information? You know, in high schools and middle schools around the country, under zero-tolerance policies, if a youngster wrote about violence in an essay, could be expelled.
Now, in most cases, these youngsters who wrote about violence did so because they could never actually express it with the -- through the barrel of a gun. Usually, this is a way of dealing with violence , in a safe, pretty innocuous way.
So, you know, I have to tell you something, Paula. I -- of course, I wish I could tell people that these warning signs could protect us in the future. But I would not be telling you the truth.
LEVIN: The truth about this is, is that we can do very little to protect ourselves, except for one thing, Paula.
ZAHN: That is a -- and very quickly, Jack.
LEVIN: There is one thing. And there is one thing that I think is very important to emphasize. We should be caring about people who are troubled long before they become troublesome.
We should reach out to people...
LEVIN: ... not to punish them, but to give them our concern, our caring.
LEVIN: And then we might even prevent a murderer or two in the process.
Well, that, unfortunately, is one of the shortcomings of our society today. We don't have a lot of safety nets out there for troubled youths.
Jack Levin, as always, thank you so much for your very important information.
And, as we continue to watch tonight's candlelight memorial service, we're going to take you back to the scene of yesterday's shooting. Please stay with us as we retrace this steps of a killer.
Also, one of the survivors from a classroom that was attacked, wait until you hear what he has to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's impossible to make sense of such violence and suffering. Those whose lives were taken did nothing to deserve their fate. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now they're gone, and they leave behind grieving families and grieving classmates and a grieving nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And we welcome you back to the campus of Virginia Tech, where a candlelight vigil is now under way. Students here tonight, thousands of them, now standing on the Drill Field. And for the first time now it has gotten dark, you can actually see the flickering of thousands and thousands of candles.
In fact, the whole community coming here. I talked with a number of students from other schools that have come here to honor those who lost their life. And right now we are continuing to try to retrace the killer's footsteps.
We're getting new information all the time. And Brian Todd now has that part of our story tonight.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whitney Bennett and Sarah Stevens never dreamed they would be this close to terror. Both 19-year-old freshmen at Virginia Tech, Bennett took classes in the same building on the same floor most of the killings took place. And lost a friend.
Stevens lives in same dorm where the first killings took place, on the same floor but on a different wing. She was on that floor when the shooting started but didn't hear it.
(on camera): Did anybody come into the dorm area and put you on lockdown at any time?
SARAH STEVENS, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Not me specifically. They had the west side on complete lockdown.
TODD (voice-over): Stevens waited it out till the end and found out a young man she knew on that floor, Ryan Clark, had been killed. Somehow the shooter was able to get into this dorm even though it is likely he didn't live there and didn't have a key.
The door is not going anywhere.
STEVENS: The only way he could have gotten in was if someone let him in or if he stood by the door and waited.
TODD: We walked to nearby Harper Hall where Cho Seung-Hui lived.
(on camera): Could someone kind of hide in plain sight like that and not be noticed, even if he concealed them.
WHITNEY BENNETT, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: It was a cold morning here at Tech. So on any cold morning like that, you will have numerous students with big coats, backpacks. It would be, I mean, very easy for him to probably put two handguns anywhere on his person. And nobody would notice unless he were acting incredibly strange.
TODD: Now we start toward the building where 30 people lost their lives. So we're between Harper Hall where the shooter lived and West Ambler Johnston Hall where first shooting took place. We're walking to Norris Hall.
(voice-over): It takes us 11 minutes past buildings and wide open areas. We come upon Norris Hall. We find two windows still open where kids jumped out. For Bennett and Stevens, it's the first time back since the shootings.
BENNETT: I can't go back in that building again.
TODD: But despite that, neither Bennett nor Stevens are even thinking about transferring. Brian Todd, CNN, Blacksburg, Virginia.
ZAHN: One of the most horrifying stories from Norris Hall involves a German class of about two dozen students -- I want to pause for a second. Because I'm sure you can hear some of this candlelight vigil drifting through. Let's just pause for a second.
CROWD: Hokies, Hokie, Hokies.
ZAHN: I wish I could make out -- to me it sounds almost like a call of defiance. I'm here with Trey, a student from Virginia Tech. What were they saying?
TREY PERKINS, SURVIVOR: They're chanting, "Let's go Hokies." At all our football games, basketball games, it's the most common chant we have. ZAHN: They sound defiant tonight.
ZAHN: We should explain why you are here with us now. You happened to be in a German class yesterday.
ZAHN: When most of the people in your class were cut down by this killer. Take us back to that period of time, 37 hours ago. What do you remember when the shooting started?
PERKINS: I remember sitting in class. A guy opens the door twice. He just kind of looks in, peeks in. We thought just some guy maybe thought he had a class here but had the wrong room.
He leaves. About two minutes later we start hearing loud popping noises. And I mean, everyone in the class was kind of confused about what it is. And shortly after that, the man comes into the room and just immediately opens fire.
ZAHN: You literally saw most of your class get killed.
ZAHN: How is it that your life was spared? How were you able to get away?
PERKINS: I have no idea. I mean, I think it's by grace of God. I just lay down. I put a couple desks on their side. I just laid there and thought about my family, prayed and just hoped that he would leave.
ZAHN: We're going to pause for a second. For you to translate for us what the crowd is saying. We're getting such distorted sound back here.
First of all, your reaction to this candlelight vigil. I was at the memorial service today. In the stadium were 15,000 people showed up that couldn't -- that was just the overfill.
ZAHN: Then you see this response here tonight. As a student here, what does that mean to you?
PERKINS: It's incredible. I mean, I knew it would be like this just because this community and how close everyone is. And how supportive we are of each other as Hokies.
I mean, everyone here, everyone was affected on campus in some way or the other. If there were any campus that were capable or ready to handle, relatively handle a situation like this, given the circumstances, it would be this campus and this community. ZAHN: There is an extraordinary strength and spirit I have seen here today over and over again. Are you getting any help yet for what you witnessed and so many other dozens of students witnessed the same thing?
PERKINS: I've just been talking to family and friends as well. I mean, tons of people have called. People I haven't spoken to in years but still call and say that they care about me and they're thinking about me.
My family has been here since yesterday. And they've been very supportive of me. My roommates last night when I got back in, they wanted to take me out to get food, to try to get me fed and just do anything they could. I mean, it was absolutely incredible the support I had.
ZAHN: Once again, back inside the classroom yesterday, what kind of bravery did you see?
PERKINS: I mean, you really can't even put into words. Like Derek O'Dell, who was shot in the arm, once the gunman left the room, we both stood up along with another student Caitlin (ph) who I think actually had been shot twice and in minor locations. So she was still able to get up and help. And we shut the door and kept the gunman out a second time when he tried to push in.
ZAHN: Had you not shut the door, do you think he might have killed you?
PERKINS: Yeah. If we hadn't had gone up and barricaded the door I wouldn't be here today. I can tell you without a doubt.
ZAHN: And I guess the one thing that is so hard for anybody to accept. You were talking about your friend shot twice. Was just the sheer brutality of this man, the fact that no single victim that died was shot less than three times. Just horrendous. Final thought on what witnessing here tonight on the field?
PERKINS: It's just incredible. I just can't express how thankful I am for the community. And I just can't express how I feel and how grateful I am to be part of this.
ZAHN: We're so grateful for you sharing your story with us tonight.
PERKINS: Thank you.
ZAHN: Good night and good luck with the rest of your school year.
PERKINS: Thank you very much.
ZAHN: Earlier this afternoon, there was a formal convocation to honor the fallen students. I was just talking about that a little bit earlier on. I was there. And some students shared with me their memories of their friends and of yesterday's horror. Their powerful stories are coming up next.
Also, how are the injured students doing tonight? We're going to have the very latest for you from the hospital. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: So hard to look at all those pictures of the fallen. You certainly can feel the grief here tonight at Virginia Tech. Right now thousands of students behind me just wrapping up a candlelight vigil for the victims of the worst school shooting ever in U.S. history.
They have also brought flowers to lay at a special memorial for the 32 victims. But the outpouring of emotion is not just confined to this campus.
ZAHN (voice-over): The national dimension of this tragedy was clear this afternoon when President Bush came to take part in a memorial ceremony. There were thousands of students and faculty, many with tears in their eyes. As the service came to an end, I spoke with some of them. Finance major David Goldsworth believed this was a healing experience.
(on camera): What did you get out of this personally today to be here to pay your respect to those who lost their lives?
DAVID GOLDSWORTH, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Well, one of my friends lost his little sister. And that kind of made it hit a lot closer to home. So just being here with everybody, seeing how everybody else reacting kind of makes you feel it's a great community here. Everybody is kind of -- it's a big family at Virginia Tech.
ZAHN (voice-over): Nathan Hernandez lost a friend in the shooting. He's a Virginia Tech grad and raced back to campus when he got the news.
NATHAN HERNANDEZ, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: One of the victims was actually my friend. And she was -- her brother was actually my freshman year roommate. Actually it hit close to home.
ZAHN: What do you want people to know about your friend that you lost?
HERNANDEZ: The friend I lost, she was an amazing person. Just kind of makes you want to -- she didn't ask for this.
ZAHN: It all seems so surreal to graduate student Rebekah Epstein.
REBEKAH EPSTEIN, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Everybody I think is just still in shock and trying to figure out what's going on and what happened and trying to follow everything that's going on in the media and all the bad press that's coming out of some of the events and everything.
ZAHN: I could see that while people here are trying to cope with this tragedy, they certainly have not come to terms with it.
ZAHN (on camera): And more than likely will never come to terms with this profound sense of loss.
I think the most amazing experience I had today was recognizing it wasn't just the students from Virginia Tech and their family members that were here today. But I actually talked with a man who drove 500 miles and essentially drove all night. So he, too, could honor the students and teachers who lost their lives.
The candlelight vigil just breaking up here on the campus of Virginia Tech. A lot more, though, ahead tonight, including the extraordinary story of a professor who put himself in harm's way, literally throwing his body up against the door to protect his students.
And because of his bravery, a number of his students survived. They either jumped out of windows or they were able to hide under desks and live.
Let's go back to Carol Costello, who has been covering the candlelight vigil since it got under way. I'm seeing the crowd breaking from my end of the field. Are they leaving from your end as well?
COSTELLO: Paula, this vigil is breaking up right now, but as you can see, thousand of people are still standing around very solemnly talking. It was just about minutes ago that a huge cheer went up. This is what the cheer was. It was simply "Hokies, Hokies, Hokies." Because as I was telling people before, it is about sadness, but it is also about school pride because these students and the parents that are here don't want Virginia Tech to be remembered for this one horrible incident. They want it to be remembered for the good things about college life.
And interestingly enough as I talked to students earlier on campus, they said they weren't interested in more security or metal detectors at the door, they just want to go back to college life and live like normal college students. Back to you.
ZAHN: I heard that a lot, too, Carol. Particularly from students who were so angry about what happened. They say they want to reclaim their campus. In fact, one young girl told me that she wouldn't mind repeating a grade or extending graduate school so she could spend more time here and send the message to the rest of the country that things will be just fine here on campus some day.
We're going to take a short break. We'll have much more when we come back.
Carol Costello, thanks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are Virginia Tech. We are sad today. And we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on. We are embracing our mourning. We are Virginia Tech. We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly. We are brave enough to bend and cry and sad enough to know that we must laugh again. We are Virginia Tech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And boy, did that spirit come through today. We are on the campus of Virginia Tech where behind me students are just wrapping up a candlelight vigil remembering the 32 who were shot to death in yesterday's massacre.
At least 29 people survived, 14 of them remain in the hospital tonight. Let's turn to medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She joins us now with the very latest on their condition tonight. Many details on how they're doing tonight, Elizabeth?
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, doctors have come out with details, Paula. They say that of the 14 in hospitals, all are in stable condition except one who is in critical condition. Eight out of the 14 patients are in Montgomery Regional, the hospital behind me. Doctors came out today to talk about how some of these patients saved their own lives.
They talked about a patient named Kevin Stern, a senior, who took two shots to his leg, his femoral artery was torn apart. He knew right there on the scene that he had to save his own life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DAVID STOEKLE, HOSPITAL CHIEF OF SURGERY: He was an eagle scout. He wrapped a wire cord from apparently an electrical -- something electrical that was in that classroom. He wrapped it tightly. And I think he had one of the other students help him wrap this around his leg because he knew he was bleeding to death.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN : One surgeon I talked to, Paula, said that he knows that they can take care of these patients, that they can fix their physical wounds, even with three bullets in their body. He says what he's worried about is the psychological trauma. He says we don't know the long-term psychological impact on these students.
ZAHN: As well as the rest of the students that witnessed this horrendous massacre. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.
Moving up on the top of the hour, LARRY KING LIVE coming up in just a few minutes. Hi, Larry, who is going to be joining you tonight?
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Hey, Paula. Coming up, we've got the latest on what may have been warning signs about the killer in this deadliest rampage in American history. And Dr. Phil returns. And a Columbine survivor will join us, as families share emotional memories of victims of yesterday's Virginia Tech massacre. It's all ahead at the top of the hour. Paula?
ZAHN: Larry, you would have been very touched if you had been here tonight. This outpouring of support for those who were injured and died has just been extraordinary. We'll be watching your show.
KING: I've had friends and relatives that have gone to that school. It's a great school -- isn't it a beautiful campus.
ZAHN: It's extraordinary. It's huge. And nestled in probably some of the prettiest landscape I've ever seen. But they've got -- showed some fierce pride tonight at this candlelight vigil. And they want to show the rest of the country that they plan to take back their campus and move on and at some point continue with their studies. Larry, thanks so much.
ZAHN: One of the saddest ironies of this tragedy is the story of a professor and a Holocaust survivor who lost his life on what turned out to be Holocaust Memorial Day. I'll have his incredible story in just a moment. Please stay with us.
ZAHN: We are at Virginia Tech tonight, a campus still in shock after the shootings that took the lives of 33 people here yesterday.
One victim was no stranger to atrocity. Professor Liviu Librescu taught mechanics and engineering here at Virginia Tech, but he also happened to be a survivor of the Holocaust, and unbelievably, he died trying to save his students on what was Holocaust Remembrance Day.
ZAHN (voice-over): On Monday morning, Professor Liviu Librescu walked into his classroom prepared to deliver a lecture to his engineering students. It was his last one. No one could have imagined what was going to follow. Gunshots down the hall interrupted the lecture.
And in the panic that followed, Professor Librescu became a hero. Students told his family today that during the bloodbath, he saved their lives. Librescu blocked the door to the classroom with his body while urging his students to flee.
Some of them survived by jumping out the window. But the Romanian-Israeli professor was shot to death while preventing the shooter from getting access to the class. His close friends told me they weren't that surprised.
(on camera): What makes his heroics all the more staggering is the fact that he himself was a Holocaust survivor. How did that shape who he was?
NITZA KATS, FAMILY FRIEND: Well, he was not afraid of anything anymore. After what he went through himself.
ZAHN (voice-over): His son in Israel says his father's passion for academic studies is what drove him to teach every day.
ARIE LIBRESCU, LIVIU LIBRESCU'S SON: That's what woke him up in the morning, and teaching and doing research. That was his food. That was the food to his soul.
ZAHN: Born in Romania, he survived the Holocaust as a child. He immigrated to Israel as an already well-recognized scientist in his field. His academic career took him to Blacksburg where he taught at Virginia Tech for more than 20 years.
How much did he care about his students?
KATS: Very much. It tells a lot what he did yesterday.
ZAHN: Colleagues here at the Engineering Department are still trying to come to terms with everything that's happened in the past 36 hours.
MAHENDRA SINGH, ENGINEERING PROFESSOR: It is a great loss for us. We have lost two faculty members in our department. Very bright ones. And he was a giant in his area.
ZAHN: And a man who will be remembered as someone who had great courage and saved lives.
How do you want him to be remembered?
KATS: Just remembering his unselfishness, what he did for the others.
LIBRESCU: He loved his work and discoveries and he literally gave his life for what he loved and the university and the research he was conducting.
ZAHN: And today in conversation over and over again with his friends, I heard the tremendous gratitude they have for all of those things.
We're going to be right back with more breaking news coverage of tonight's candlelight vigil for the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, just wrapping up, although I would say still at this hour you've got about 500 or so students on the field. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And we leave you now from the campus of Virginia Tech after an incredibly emotionally charged day, from the moment of the memorial service where the president spoke to tonight's candlelight vigil where thousands of students showed up as well as administration members.
Thank you so much for being with us. Our coverage continues with Larry King.
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