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Virginia Tech Students Gather for Memorial Vigil


Virginia Tech is mourning its dead as the university and the nation learn more about the 23-year-old student behind the worst mass shooting rampage in modern U.S. history. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korean native, killed 32 people Monday before taking his own life.

One day after the massacre, members of the Virginia Tech community came together to remember and to grieve.

They held onto each other for comfort and strength. Zenobia Hikes, a university official, spoke for them all. "With the help and support of each other, and our brothers and sisters all over the world, we will eventually recover. But we will never, ever forget," she said.

Students, teachers and staff filled a university arena - some still in shock over the senseless violence.

Political and religious leaders sat with them and spoke to the gathering. President Bush offered condolences on behalf of the nation. "We have come to express our sympathy. And in this time of anguish, I hope you know that people all over this country are thinking about you, and asking God to provide comfort for all who have been affected," he said.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the massacre at the largest university in the eastern state of Virginia is continuing. Early Tuesday Virginia Tech police Chief Wendell Flinchum told reporters that ballistic evidence indicates Cho Seung-Hui was the gunman, responsible for both an early morning shooting at a dormitory, and a second bloodbath in a classroom building. "A nine-millimeter handgun and a 22-caliber handgun were recovered from Norris Hall. Lab results confirm that one of the two weapons seized in Norris Hall was used in both shootings," he said.

In interviews with national newspapers and television networks, witnesses painted a chilling portrait of the gunman, who shot his victims with a serious, but calm look on his face.

Cho, a fourth-year student majoring in English literature, arrived in the United States from South Korea as a child in 1992 and was raised in a Washington, D.C. suburb. He was living in the country as a legal resident alien, retaining his South Korean citizenship.

There was no mention of Cho at the gathering at the university coliseum - only words of sympathy for the victims, and determination to rise above the tragedy. Poet Nikki Giovanni - who teaches at Virginia Tech - rallied the audience with a call to come together as a family. "We are Virginia Tech. We are strong enough to stand tall tirelessly. We are brave enough to bend to cry. And sad enough to know we must laugh again. We are Virginia Tech!," said Nikki Giovanni.

As she walked away from the podium, the students erupted into a school cheer - a recognition that healing will take time, but they will heal as one.