New York native John Colletta applied to Virginia Tech almost two years ago with the impression that Blacksburg, Va., would be a safe place to earn a degree.
“The only real crime, and you can’t even call it that, would be involving alcohol or drinking,” he said.
The nation’s worst school shooting on Monday has forever tarnished the humble college town.
Colletta, a sophomore finance major at Virginia Tech, said he first learned of the shooting from a university-wide e-mail sent early Monday morning.
“From what the first e-mail sounded like, the issue was already resolved,” Colletta told the Collegian during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It seemed like there was nothing to worry about.”
Colletta would receive two more messages from the university before the end of the day, each painting an increasingly more tragic picture of the day’s events.
Under the impression that everything was under control, Colletta drove to campus and attended two classes.
On his way home, he said he was nearly rear-ended by the first police to arrive on the scene.
“I didn’t hear any gun shots,” he said.
Like many students who are away from home during a tragedy, Colletta’s first phone conversations were with his parents. His father, who had just finished a 12-hour shift at work, hadn’t heard about the shooting, but his mom called him soon after.
“Everyone was calling me,” he said. “Some people that I haven’t talked to in years.”
As Colletta recounted the day’s events, he was reminded of another national tragedy that hit all too close to home.
“It’s similar to 9/11,” said the 19-year-old from Greenlawn, N.Y. “It doesn’t matter how many times you watch it, it still doesn’t sink in. It’s just so unnecessary.”
Staff writer Sean Star can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.