Killer Came From Virginia High School That Has Produced Many Fine Members Of Tech Communityby Tricia Sangalang
News Staff Writer
April 18, 2007
Editor’s Note: This is one of the final articles planetblacksburg.com will publish in regards to Cho Seung-Hui. He has dishonored the special community that is Virginia Tech. After Wednesday, April 18, 2007, his name will not be mentioned again by this student media organization.
Just seven years old, Westfield High in Chantilly is the state’s largest high school with a student body that has just over 3,200 students.
Among its grads are some of Virginia Tech’s best best-known faces, specifically the Hokies’ quarterback and receiver tandem of Sean Glennon and Eddie Royal.
Sadly, perversely, there’s a new name to add to that Westfield list, a name that forever forward will strike dread in hearts everywhere.
Students who knew him at Westfield said he preferred to be called Seung Cho.Tech students from Westfield describe him as a quiet person who would have “no expression on his face” during interactions. In these cases, students more so knew of him as a peer who rarely participated in class discussions and often refused to take part in social outings.
“He was very odd (and) didn’t like to interact with anyone,” said Patrick Song, a senior marketing major who also attended Westfield. “He always had a blank stare on his face, but looked puzzled and even serious.”
Song and Cho had calculus class together during their senior year at Westfield.
Song said Cho would pass him in the halls every once in a while but Cho was alone each time.
“I don’t think he had friends,” Song said.
Cho, 23, was a senior English major at Tech and native of South Korea. He and his family lived in Centreville, Va., and he graduated from Westfield in 2003.
Jessica Bowen, a senior aerospace engineering major and high school classmate, shared similar memories.
“...The only images of him that I remember are of him alone and with no expression on his face,” she said. “I never got a chance to talk to him because he was really hard to even talk to, but I did know of him.”
Cho’s reticent nature defined his interactions in Blacksburg as well. His former suitemate, junior Business Management major Andy Koch, recalled: “He was quiet, shy. We tried to do stuff with him in the beginning of the year, but things just got weirder and weirder.”
By “weirder,” Koch explained that he and his friends took Cho to a party during the first month of school. He kept telling them he had “an imaginary girlfriend.”
In addition, there were incidents of Cho “stalking girls,” Koch said. Authorities had to step in during those occurrences, although it’s not entirely clear how they were dealt with.
Koch recalled most interaction with him was in the suite’s common room.
“He spent time in the common room ... there was one time he wrote ‘dark’ lyrics to a Nirvana song on the walls and we reported that because we didn’t want to get in trouble for that.”
Koch declined to reveal those lyrics.
He said he and his friends saw him around campus a few times after they moved out of Cochrane; the most recent encounter was this past Sunday and Cho did not say a word.
“There was one instance he said he was going to commit suicide and we reported that and they took him away. It was at that point he shut down,” Koch said.
Cho then ignored all attempts Koch made to talk to him, and Koch and his friends, in turn, began ignoring him too.
“After I heard I knew him, I was in shock,” Koch said. “I didn’t think he’d do something like that.”
Katie Dolan, a Virginia Tech senior marketing major who graduated from Centreville High School in 2003, was shocked to discover that Cho lived in her hometown.
“I felt sick to my stomach knowing the shooter was from Centreville,” she said. “I was scared and confused. I didn’t really know what to think, but I didn’t want people thinking that Centreville is a bad place.”
Dolan did not know Cho personally. Westfield and Centreville are approximately seven miles from each other.
“It made me mad because he lives so close to me,” she said. “It’s pretty scary because he could have done something like this a long time ago. I just want to know what his motive was for doing it now.”
Like Dolan, Sean Glennon, the quarterback of Tech’s football team, expressed dismay at learning that the killer was from his hometown.
Asked what he thought when he realized he had gone to high school with the man who killed so many of his fellow Hokies, Glennon told the Roanoke Times: “The whole Virginia Tech thing here hits so close to home because it’s my college. And then to find out that the person involved is from my other home is just unbelievable.”
Terrance Steffens, a Tech senior building construction major and another 2003 graduate of Westfield, found himself and his family fielding calls from the media in the wake of Monday’s killing spree simply because he was a high school classmate of the shooter.
“I didn’t know him,” Steffens said, “but I would feel badly for him. Clearly he was a troubled kid. Maybe all he needed was someone to talk to. I’d hate to think that someone I knew wouldn’t be able to count on me as a friend or a helping hand.”
All the students interviewed expressed the intention of moving on the best way they can both personally and academically. All acknowledged the sense of community and togetherness they have felt in the past few days within this “Hokie family,” as Bowen referred to it.
Others have put the situation in another perspective.
“Last night, I was trying to think about the number 33, and how it has been thrown around as a measure of how tragic (Monday) was,” Steffens said. “Each of our stories is different, but they converge on one day. Monday, April 16, 2007 was the day that the number 33 made 26,000 people become one.”