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The campus was less active Thursday than normal as the university honored Reading Day, a one-day break between the end of classes and final exams. But the effect of the lockdown on everyday activity was eerily palpable, said J.D. Anderson, 20, a junior accounting major.

“Usually people would be outside walking to and from dining halls. It was literally just nothing,” Mr. Anderson said, describing his drive from off campus to pick up his sister from her dorm.

Among those who were absent from campus Thursday was Virginia Tech’s police chief Wendell Flinchum. He and several other officials were testifying in Washington, appealing a fine imposed in the wake of the 2007 shootings.

The U.S. Department of Education in March fined the school $55,000 for failing to quickly notify students of the shooting threat. The university has defended its 2007 actions and argued that the department is holding the school to standards put in place after the massacre.

Officials in Blacksburg said they were pleased with the way information was disseminated about Thursday’s shootings.

“Our technology worked perfectly well. We’re very pleased with the notification that occurred today,” Mr. Steger said.

On campus Thursday night — when a candlelight vigil was planned — the mood was somber but resilient.

“We’re just trying to stay strong and get through it because I’m sure we’re going to get a lot of criticism, especially with this happening after 2007,” said Jessica Wilson, 18, a freshman biology major.

Ms. Wilson said she still felt safe on campus because the school handled the alert quickly.

“If they had done anything differently, I wouldn’t feel safe,” she said. “But the way they were really prepared definitely comforted me.”

David Sherfinski contributed to this report.