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Norris Hall set to re-open

- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Bullet holes have been patched, walls freshly painted off-white, doors, ceilings and floors replaced.

Nearly two months later, there is no visible evidence of student Seung-hui Cho's shooting rampage in a Virginia Tech building that left 31 dead, including himself.

University officials yesterday gave reporters tours of Norris Hall, which has been locked since the April 16 shootings in which Cho also killed two students in a dormitory.

The tours came in advance of reopening the classroom building next week for the use of engineering program laboratories and offices.

"A horrendous and heinous crime occurred on our property," university spokesman Larry Hincker said, and officials did not want victims' families subjected to images of the crime scene soon after the shootings.

"It needed to be remediated," he said.

Furniture has been removed from the second-floor classrooms where Cho killed 25 students and five professors and where 25 were injured, some as they jumped out windows to safety.

Students in the engineering class of Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu leapt through leaded-glass windows about 18 inches wide to a grassy bank and large shrub as the professor barred the door with his body before he was fatally shot by Cho.

Cho had chained most entrances to the buildings from the inside, delaying police officers who responded to 911 calls. They entered by shooting the lock off a laboratory door that wasn't chained.

University officials have said classes will no longer be held in the building.

Relatives of 18 of the injured or dead have had private visits in the building, Mr. Hincker said. All the families were contacted before the announcement last week that the building would reopen.

Cho fired 174 shots from two handguns in nine minutes in four classrooms, two on each side of a hallway.

"The shootings were concentrated in the classrooms themselves" rather than the hallway, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said.

Police have not said where individual victims were found or how many were in each classroom out of consideration for their families, she said.

Cho fired his weapons in two engineering classes, a French class and a German class. There has been no indication of why he chose those classrooms.

He took his own life at 9:51 a.m. as police climbing the stairwell closed in, and his body was found in one room among his victims. Police have not said which one.

One family member who toured Norris last week was Virginia Tech professor Bryan Cloyd, whose daughter, Austin, was killed.

"Even though I've been in and taught in the building recently, I almost didn't recognize my own classroom," Mr. Cloyd said. "It's changed that much."

The linoleum floors, off-white with specks of beige, gleamed in brief sunshine that broke through clouds yesterday morning. New fluorescent ceiling lights were on in each room and in the hallway.

Blackboards that had been in the wing of the three-story collegiate gothic structure since it was built in 1960 were replaced with white boards, Mr. Hincker said.

The cinderblock walls in the stairwells at each end of the hallway have a fresh coat of beige paint and new linoleum as well, but the first-floor laboratories under the classrooms are slightly dingy.

Refurbishing of the entire building will continue through the summer, university spokesman Mark Owczarski said.

Ishwar Puri, head of the engineering science and mechanics department based in Norris Hall, asked for work on the rest of the building so the repainted rooms would not be a constant reminder of the attack.

Virginia Tech will spend a little more than $400,000 to refurbish Norris Hall, including replacing asbestos in flooring on all three levels, Mr. Hincker said.