University weighs fate of Norris Hall

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Like the people of New York, Oklahoma City and Littleton, Colo., the Virginia Tech community faces a difficult decision on what it will do with the scene of a tragedy.

The classrooms and hallways of the school’s Norris Hall were littered with the bodies of 25 students and five professors on April 16, plus the body of gunman Seung-hui Cho.

Student Brian Skipper wonders how anyone can ever be expected to learn in Norris Hall.

“I won’t go back in that building,” says the 21-year-old junior from Yorktown, Va., who lost five friends in Norris, including his faculty adviser, G.V. Loganathan. “I couldn’t see people returning in there and just going back to normal.”

Two other students were slain in a campus dormitory.

The university has made no plans beyond cleaning and repairing the flat-roofed, oblong stone structure, which has remained under police guard since the killing spree.

However, faculty, students and alumni have weighed in with suggestions for Norris’ future, one of more than 100 buildings on Virginia Tech’s 2,600-acre campus. Built in the early 1960s, it houses the department of engineering science and mechanics.

Ideas for the building’s future range from returning it to use as classrooms to making it a memorial or even knocking it down.

There are examples across the nation of how others have dealt with sites of overnight infamy.

Every evening, the University of Texas at Austin illuminates the clock tower where sniper Charles Whitman climbed to the 28th floor and killed 16 and wounded 31 on Aug. 1, 1966.

Before the attack, the 307-foot tower had been a symbol of the school for three decades. Its observation deck reopened a year after Whitman’s attack, but it was closed again in 1974 after four persons jumped to their deaths. Tours are now available by reservation only.

Most of the killings in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., occurred in the library. Officials built an atrium on the site and placed a new library that includes a memorial to the 12 students and one teacher killed by two student shooters.

The bombed-out Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was razed after Timothy McVeigh set off explosives that killed 168 persons on April 19, 1995. The 3-acre site was turned over to a museum and memorial.

In Dallas, the first five floors of the Texas School Book Depository hold government offices, but there is a museum on the sixth floor where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots that killed President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.

At ground zero in Lower Manhattan, New York City is building new office towers and a memorial to the 2,749 victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers.

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