- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The tragic shootings at Virginia Tech have led to an outpouring of emotion from people around the world, many of them using the social networking online site Facebook to express their grief for those killed and anger at the student responsible.

As names of the 32 persons killed by student Cho Seung-hui, 23, trickled out yesterday, memorials to some of those slain began to pop up.

On a Facebook page to remember Ryan Clark, 22 — a dorm resident adviser who was among the first shot after he reportedly tried to break up an argument in West Ambler Johnston Hall — the Georgia native was heralded as a hero who tried to save a fellow student.

“Ryan ‘Stack’ Clark is the type of man we need more of across the United States,” said Johnny Boatwright from the University of Virginia. “He is a true hero now and forever for his courageous actions yesterday.”

Another poster from the University of Florida identified with Mr. Clark as a fellow college band member.

“We will be praying for you and your entire campus, you are all in our thoughts,” Elizabeth Gravitz wrote. “We will never forget. It could have happened here, and it’s just really scary to think that.”

A poem on a page dedicated to victim Mary Karen Read, 19, of Annandale, called the South Korea native a “gorgeous angel” now “in heaven watching over us.”

“Mary was a beautiful person,” the poem read. “Her smile made the sun’s beauty envious.”

The Internet served as a way for Virginia Tech students to communicate details with each other in the confusion immediately after Monday’s shootings.

Yesterday, one Facebook site titled “i’m ok at VT” provided information on some confirmed victims of the shootings. Many users have since changed their profiles from pictures of themselves to black ribbons set behind the Virginia Tech logo.

Other pages — like “Clemson Supports VT” and “California University Remembers the VT Victims” — simply expressed support for Tech students from fellow collegians across the country.

But some of the pages also turned into Web-based forums for debate and blame.

On the Facebook page “Always Remember VIRGINIA TECH,” posters from Singapore and Malaysia questioned the gun laws of the United States while others said the lack of gun control didn’t cause the tragedy.

“There was no reason to think he was a threat,” wrote Chris Morgan from the University of West Georgia. “What laws could we possibly enforce that would keep people like him from getting guns?”

Nolan Mullins, a senior at Marshall University in West Virginia, created a page called “Blame Cho Seung-Hui (VT Shooter)” that featured comments from posters that included “I hope Cho is burning in hell” and “i wish this dude did not kill him self so that he could have gotten the death penalty.”

Other pages about the shooter were titled with expletives and called Cho a “bonafide coward.”

Mr. Mullins said his page was designed in response to criticism of university administrators who did not lock down the Virginia Tech campus or immediately cancel classes after the initial shooting of Mr. Clark and a female student in the dormitory.

He also said he was working to monitor and remove some comments.

“I’m just trying to present my ideas on why I think the administration of Virginia Tech wasn’t responsible for what happened,” said Mr. Mullins, 22, whose father attended the school. “This wasn’t created to be a hateful group or anything.”

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