Afternoon Press Conference Raises More Questions Than Answersby Omar Maglalang
News Staff Writer
April 16, 2007
During a late-afternoon press conference Monday, Virginia Tech officials and administrators struggled to provide answers to a host of media questions about the massacre of 32 students in classrooms and a dorm earlier Monday morning.
When asked why officials did not close campus sooner when the shooting incident occurred in West Ambler Johnston, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said, “We thought the situation was handled. . . We knew two people were shot and that’s the information we went off of.”
Flinchum said police were aware the gunman had left the scene at West Ambler Johnston, a large dorm on campus where two people were shot and killed.
However, the many reporters from national and international news organizations that converged on the scene continued to press both Flinchum and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger for answers they didn’t have.
The lack of available information led university spokesman Larry Hincker to close down the questioning with the idea that another news conference would be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday with the idea that more information would be available.
For example, officials did not know how many of the more than 25 injured persons were critically injured.
“Hopefully we’ll have that information later tonight,” Hincker said after the afternoon session.
Officials said they are in the process of identifying bodies. When asked about morgue capabilities state medical examiner was brought on to facilitate the identifying of the dead bodies.
Various counseling centers have also been made available in Ambler Johnston, and in McComas, grief counseling will be provided as well.
A phone number for parents to identify their children has also been provided, (540) 231-3787, but this led to an automated answering machine.
“We have to think very carefully about the process of healing,” said President Charles Steger. “It’s going to be a long difficult road.”
Steger also noted that before reopening the university, “We have to find all the facts, we are dealing with tremendous grief.”