Graduates from isles survive Virginia shooting
Two Hawaii students attending Virginia Tech describe the gunshots and chaos
At about the same time that Andrew Ton lined up yesterday for a 7:15 a.m. military formation, across the Virginia Tech campus, someone fired the first shot in the deadliest shooting in America.
This ends an already eventful freshman year at Virginia Tech for two Hawaii high school graduates. It began with an escaped convict, followed by bomb threats and now this -- 33 dead.
From her dorm room, Moanalua High School graduate Jessamy Oxley could hear every gunshot above the screaming ambulance and police sirens while a gunman was only a five-minute walk away.
"There were maybe three or four gunshots at a time, then it was quiet for probably a minute or two and it'd start up again," said Oxley, 19, who graduated from Moanalua in 2006. "That lasted for 20, 30 minutes at most."
Two Hawaii high school graduates were at Virginia Tech yesterday during the nation's deadliest campus shooting, in which 33 people died.
"It's a sad day," Andrew Ton, 19, a 2006 Kailua High School graduate, said yesterday afternoon. "We're still missing one friend. From what I hear, he's still unaccounted for."
Ton, an engineering major about to complete his freshman year, chose Virginia Tech for its Corps of Cadet program. He eventually wants to join the Army. Ton lives in Brodie Hall, one of three Corps dorms, he said.
He went to a 7:15 a.m. formation yesterday, the same time the first shooting occurred at West Ambler Johnston Hall. Ton didn't hear any gunshots then, but heard ambulance sirens and thought there was a car accident.
It was two hours later that students heard anything about a shooting, in an e-mail from the university at 9:26 a.m.
Ton got out of class at 9 a.m. and returned to Brodie Hall to eat. Before he could leave, people stopped him and said classes were canceled and the university was on lockdown for the rest of the day. Ton thought it had something to do with bomb threats the university received earlier this month.
"We weren't sure what was going on," he said. "I looked out the window and saw people running."
It reminded Ton of the first day of classes in August, when the school had been locked down because a convict had escaped.
"Even the incident in August hadn't really bothered me," said Oxley, a psychology and English major also in her freshman year. "But this time, it really makes me wonder if I want to transfer or if I want to stay here next year."
From her Slusher Hall room window, Oxley watched students sprint across the Drillfield, one of Virginia Tech's main campus attractions, trying to get into a building and into safety. Police officers were hiding in bushes. People were running in all directions but away from Norris Hall, the scene of the second shooting yesterday.
Oxley watched the local news as the number of deaths climbed from one to 21 and then to the 30s. She was trying to reach her mother, who lives in northern Virginia, but the phone lines were busy.
"It took me about 45 minutes to an hour to get through to her," Oxley's mother, Amy, said. "I was very nervous and crying. As that hour went on, the number (of deaths) kept upping."
Amy Oxley was angry that the university didn't lock down the school after the first shooting. She plans on writing a letter to the administration on the school's safety procedures.
"This is twice now in less than a year that something major has happened on that campus," Amy Oxley said. "I have to think about the safety of my daughter."
Jessamy Oxley was able to reach her father, who is stationed at Pearl Harbor, before he left on an airplane. Friends from high school also called to see if she was OK.
Friends were getting in touch with each other primarily through text messages and instant messaging. Oxley said she had touched base with all of her friends.
It has been a crazy year, Oxley said. She went to Virginia Tech primarily because her family is relocating to Virginia, but she isn't sure whether she wants to stay.
"Even though she loves Virginia Tech and she enjoys being down there, I think today's just really changed her feeling towards the school," Amy Oxley said yesterday.
Isle lawmakers honor victims in Virginia
The Hawaii Legislature paid respects to the victims at Virginia Tech as members of the House paused for a moment of silence before adjourning a late afternoon session.
"The needless loss of life was incomprehensible," said Rep. Karen Awana (R, Kalaeloa-Nanakuli), noting that the campus massacre occurred the same day lawmakers honored fallen soldiers with a Hawaii Medal of Honor presentation ceremony.
"We have come to expect that there will be casualties on the battlefield, but our country's schools and universities are supposed to be our safe havens," Awana said.