- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In Mary Karen Read’s hometown of Annandale, friends and former high-school classmates yesterday remembered the Virginia Tech freshman as somebody who brought out the best in others.

“Mary was like an angel on earth,” said Sierra Peralta, a 17-year-old junior at Annandale High School. “She stood for good. She stood for God. She made everyone want to be good.”

Miss Read, 19, was among several Northern Virginia students killed Monday during the massacre on the Blacksburg campus where 33 persons, including the shooter, died. It was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.

Miss Peralta was just one of several Annandale High students and former students who congregated throughout the day in the band room to remember Miss Read, who played the clarinet. She said Miss Read wanted to be an elementary school teacher.

Flags are flying at half-staff outside the high school.

Miss Read’s aunt, Karen Kuppinger, said her niece was like many Virginia Tech freshmen — eager to come to this sprawling 2,600-acre campus to learn and find themselves.

“I think she wanted to try to spread her wings,” said Mrs. Kuppinger, adding that Miss Read was just starting to become comfortable as a college student.

At least two victims attended Westfield High School in Chantilly, the same high school from which the gunman graduated in 2003.

Michael Kennedy, 18, who in May killed two Fairfax County police officers by firing more than 70 rounds in the parking lot of the nearby Sully District police station before being killed by return fire, also attended the school.

Friends of Tech freshman Erin Peterson, a 2006 Westfield graduate, described her as “the toughest girl anyone’s ever had the privilege of knowing.”

Yesterday, they also set up a tribute site to her on the social network Facebook.com.

Miss Peterson, 18, played on the Westfield girls basketball team for three years, was a member of the French honor society and worked for the student newspaper.

“I never got to tell you just how much I loved you, Erin,” a friend wrote on the Facebook site. “You were too good for this world.”

Reema Samaha, an 18-year-old freshman from Centreville, also graduated from Westfield, where she was active in theater and dance.

At Tech, she was a theater major and member of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble, a student-dance group. A family friend who answered the telephone at her parents’ home called her “a good person.”

Photos show a dark-haired, vibrant young woman.

“Why did you have to be in that classroom, Reema?” a friend asked plaintively on the Facebook site.

Maxine Turner of Vienna, Va., was just weeks away from graduating with a degree in chemical engineering. She was on the dean’s list and an officer in the college’s chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon, an engineering sorority.

Brandon Strawn, who in 2003 graduated with Miss Turner from James Madison High School in Vienna, remembered her as smart and energetic. He said he was stunned to hear of her death.

“I was pretty much speechless,” said Mr. Strawn, 21. “You hear about these things on the news and it’s horrible, but you never have a face to go with them. This time, not only was there a face, but it was someone whom I couldn’t possibly have ever imagined” this happening to, he said.

Virginia Tech professor Liviu Librescu died trying to protect his students from the approaching gunman in Norris Hall, where he was teaching class. However, this was not the first time the 76-year-old was living in danger.

A native of Romania, the professor of mechanical engineering was a Holocaust survivor. He died as Jews around the world observed National Holocaust Memorial Day.

Students who witnessed the shootings e-mailed Mr. Librescu’s wife, Marlina, to describe her husband’s courageous response after hearing gunshots in a nearby classroom. While his students hid behind desks and jumped out of windows, Mr. Librescu barricaded the classroom door.

“He lost his life protecting his students,” said Arieh Librescu, the professor’s son, in an interview with Israel Television.

• Joshua Mitnick in Tel Aviv, Israel, and Jen Haberkorn and Kara Rowland contributed to this report, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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