Ceremonies honor Va. Tech massacre victims on anniversary

Posted at 11:52 AM, Apr 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-16 12:47:59-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- People across Virginia paused to remember the victims on the seventh anniversary of the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

On April 16, 2007, 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho opened fire, killing 32 people at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Cho, who was a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in English, took his own life in the shooting. He was born in South Korea in 1984 and became a permanent U.S. resident in 1992.

One of the memorials took place at the state capitol Wednesday morning. About the same time shots rang out seven years ago in Norris Hall, 32 chimes from the Capitol Bell Tower sounded in memorial of the victims of the massacre.

Anne Holton, who was the first lady of Virginia in 2007, said at the ceremony that all of the victims had a youthful exuberance.

"Virginia Tech will always be a powerful community.  But it's a community that was changed by that day, and new powers unleashed,” Holton said.

Because of a lengthy investigation into what led up to the shooting, sweeping changes were made to campus safety.

Additionally, what some called a loophole that allowed shooter, who was diagnosed as mentally unstable, to buy handguns has since been closed.

While April 16 will always be a day of remembrance in Virginia, for victims’ families, the day also serves as a reminder of what they lost.

Matthew Gwaltney was only weeks away from graduating with a master’s degree in engineering when he was killed. For his father, April 16 is a day to reflect on his loss.

"Most of his friends are getting married, building homes, and having kids," Greg Gwaltney, Matthew’s father said. "I think we need to all be vigilant on a daily basis – and never forget.”

Here is some background information from CNN about the Virginia Tech shootings: 

Timeline: December 13, 2005 - Cho is ordered by a judge to seek outpatient care after making suicidal remarks to his roommates. He is evaluated at Carilion-St. Alban's mental health facility.

February 9, 2007 - Cho picks up a Walther P-22 pistol he purchased online on February 2 from an out-of-state dealer at JND Pawn shop in Blacksburg, across the street from Virginia Tech.

March 2007 - Cho purchases a 9mm Glock pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition from Roanoke Firearms for $571.

April 16, 2007 - 7:15 am - Police are notified in a 911 call that there are at least two shooting victims at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a four-story coed dormitory on campus that houses approximately 895 students.

9:01 am - Cho mails a package containing video, photographs and writings to NBC News in New York City. NBC doesn't receive it until two days later due to an incorrect address on the package.

9:26 am - The school sends out an e-mail statement that a shooting took place at West Ambler Johnston Hall earlier that morning.

9:45 am - 911 calls report a second round of shootings in classrooms at Norris Hall, the engineering science and mechanics building. At least 32 students and faculty are killed.

9:50 am - "Please stay put." A second e-mail notifies students that a gunman is loose on campus.

9:55 am - University officials send a third message about the second shooting via e-mail and text messages to students.

10:16 am - Classes are canceled.

10:53 am - Students receive an e-mail about Norris Hall shooting, with the subject line, "Second shooting reported: police have one gunman in custody."

12:42 pm - VT President Charles Steger issues a statement that people are being released from campus buildings and that counseling centers are being set up. He announces that classes are canceled again for the next day.

April 17, 2007 - Virginia Tech Police announce that they "have been able to confirm the identity of the gunman at Norris Hall. That person is Seung-Hui Cho. He was a 23-year-old South Korean here in the U.S. as a resident alien."

April 18, 2007 - NBC News announces that they have received a package containing pictures and written material which they believe to be from Cho, sent between the two shootings.

August 15, 2007 - It is announced that the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, funded by private donations, will donate $180,000 to the families of each of the 32 victims. Those injured will receive $40,000 to $90,000, depending on the severity of the injuries, and a waiver of tuition and fees if applicable.

March 24, 2008 - The state proposes a settlement to the families related to the shooting. In it, $100,000 is offered to representatives of each of the 32 people killed and another $800,000 is reserved to those injured, with a $100,000 maximum. Expenses not covered by insurance such as medical, psychological, and psychiatric care for surviving victims and all immediate families are also covered.

April 10, 2008 - Governor Kaine announces that a "substantial majority" of the families related to the shootings have agreed to the $11 million settlement offered by the state. It isn't clear how many families have not accepted the deal. The settlement will pay survivors' medical costs for life and compensate families who lost loved ones. By accepting the settlement, the families give up their right to sue the university, state, and local government in the future. Neither the attorneys representing the families nor the governor would discuss the exact terms until final papers are drawn.

June 17, 2008 - A judge approves the $11 million settlement offered by the state to some of the victims and families of those killed in the shooting rampage. Families of 24 of the 32 killed, as well as 18 who were injured are included in the settlement.

April 10, 2009 - Norris Hall re-opens. The 4,300-square-foot area will house the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, which relocated to the building.

December 9, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Education releases a report charging that Virginia Tech failed to notify students in a "timely manner," as prescribed by the Clery Act.

April 5, 2011 - The Dept. of Education fines Virginia Tech $55,000 for waiting too long to warn students about a shooter on the loose. Virginia Tech files an appeal on April 27.

December 7-8, 2011 - A hearing takes place at the U.S. Dept of Education concerning Virginia Tech's appeal.

March 14, 2012 - A jury awards $4 million each to two victims' families who sued the state for wrongful death. The jury finds Virginia Tech failed to notify students early enough following the discovery of two shooting victims at West Ambler Johnston dormitory. The families of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde argued that had officials notified students and staff earlier of the shooting, lives might have been spared. The Peterson and Pryde families did not accept a portion of an $11 million settlement between the state and the families of victims, opting instead to sue for wrongful death. The amount is later reduced to $100,000 per family.

March 30, 2012 - A judge overturns a $55,000 fine, ruling that Virginia Tech did not violate a law requiring it to notify students in a "timely manner" about threats during the 2007 campus rampage.

October 31, 2013 - The Supreme Court of Virginia overturns the jury verdict in a wrongful death suit filed against the state by the families of two of the victims, that "there was no duty of the Commonwealth to warn students about the potential for criminal acts" by Seung-Hui Cho.

January 21, 2014 - The court denies a request by the Pryde and Peterson families to reconsider its ruling.

The Victims: West Ambler Johnston Hall (dorm) Ryan Clark, 22, Martinez, Georgia - Senior, English and Biology - Resident Assistant on campus, also in the Marching Virginians college band. - Known as "the Stack" to friends.

Emily Jane Hilscher, 19, Woodville, Virginia - Freshman, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Equine Science

Norris Hall (dept. bldg/classrooms) Ross Alameddine, 20, Saugus, Massachusetts - Sophomore, English - Died in a French class

Dr. Christopher "Jamie" Bishop, 35, Pine Mountain, Georgia - Instructor, Foreign Languages and Literatures (German)

Brian Bluhm, 25, Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Graduate Student, Civil Engineering

Austin Cloyd (female), 18, Blacksburg, Virginia - Freshman, International Studies and French

Jocelyn Couture-Nowak, 49, born in Montreal, Canada - Instructor, French

Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva, 21, Woodbridge, Virginia, originally from Peru - Junior, International Studies - Killed in French class

Dr. Kevin Granata, 46, Toledo, Ohio - Professor, Engineering Science & Mechanics - Head of the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department

Matt Gwaltney, 24, Chesterfield, Virginia - Graduate Student, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Caitlin Hammaren, 19, Westtown, New York - Sophomore, International Studies and French

Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania - Graduate student, Civil Engineering

Rachael Hill, 18, Richmond, Virginia - Freshman, Biology

Jarrett Lane, 22, Narrows, Virginia - Senior, Civil Engineering

Matt La Porte, 20, Dumont, New Jersey - Political Science and French

Henry Lee, 20, Roanoke, Virginia - Freshman, Computer Engineering

Dr. Liviu Librescu, 75, from Romania - Professor, Engineering Science and Mechanics - A Romanian Holocaust survivor

Dr. G V Loganathan, 51, born in Chennai, India - Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering. - Had been at VA Tech since 1982.

Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan, 34, Indonesia - Doctoral student in civil engineering.

Lauren McCain, 20, Hampton, Virginia - International Studies

Daniel O'Neil, 22, Lafayette, Rhode Island - Grad student in civil engineering.

Juan Ramon Ortiz, 26, Bayamon, Puerto Rico - Grad student in civil engineering

Minal Panchal (female), 26, Mumbai, India. - Grad student in architecture

Erin Peterson, 18, Centreville, Virginia - Died in a French class.

Michael Pohle, 23, Flemington, New Jersey - Senior, Biological Sciences

Julia Pryde, 23, Middletown, New Jersey - Biological Systems Engineering

Mary Karen Read, 19, Annandale, Virginia - Freshman, Interdisciplinary Studies and Elementary Education

Reema Joseph Samaha, 18, Centreville, Virginia - Freshman, studying urban planning with a minor in international relations - Went to the same high school as Cho

Waleed Mohammed Shaalan, 32, Zagazig, Egypt - Doctoral student in civil engineering.

Leslie G. Sherman (female), 20, Springfield, Virginia - Sophomore, History and International Studies

Maxine Turner, 22, Vienna, Virginia - Senior, Chemical Engineering

Nicole Regina White, 20, Carrollton, Virginia - Junior, International Studies and German.