America is in shock and mourning, following the worst mass shooting in the nation's history. VOA's Paula Wolfson has the latest on a day of bloodshed at Virginia Tech University that left 33 people dead, including the gunman.
A blustery spring morning turned into a living nightmare at Virginia Tech.
A gunman opened fire in a dormitory. Two hours later, he struck again in a classroom.
Students fled in panic as police rushed in. Buildings across the sprawling rural campus were locked down. And the nation mourned as the death toll increased over and over again.
"Our nation is shocked and saddened by the news of the shooting at Virginia Tech today," the president said.
President Bush gave a voice to the thoughts of the American people.
"Today, our nation grieves with those who lost loved ones at Virginia Tech," he said. "We hold the victims in our hearts, we lift them up in our prayers, and we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering today."
Across Washington, in the halls of Congress, political foes joined in a moment of silence for the dead - first in the Senate and then in the House.
The top Democrat in the Senate - Harry Reid - spoke of the senselessness of the shootings. He said many questions remain unanswered.
"What we do know breaks our hearts and shakes us to our very core," he said. "So for now all we can do is offer our thoughts and our prayers in a very individual way."
For members of Virginia's congressional delegation, the shootings literally struck close to home. Virginia Tech is the largest university in the state with roughly 25,000 students. Virginia's long-time senior Senator - Republican John Warner - spoke of the loss in personal terms.
"This tragedy is an incomprehensible situation," he said. "It is an incomprehensible, senseless act of violence."
The federal government has offered to help Virginia with its investigation of the tragedy. Officials at Virginia Tech - which is state-owned and run - have defended their handling of the crisis. Students have complained the school was slow to get out information about the first shooting and that a general warning might have prevented further loss of life.
Until Monday, the worst campus shooting in U.S. history was the 1966 massacre at the University of Texas, where a student killed 16 people. Eight years ago, two teenagers murdered 13 people at their high school in Colorado before committing suicide. And just last year, a gunman killed five young girls at an Amish school in Pennsylvania.