- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

The family of Cho Seung-hui, the Virginia Tech student who killed 32 persons in a shooting spree, yesterday spoke for the first time since the massacre, saying they are “heartbroken” and “never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence.”

The statement came from his sister, Sun-kyung Cho, a contractor for a State Department office that oversees billions of dollars in American aid for Iraq. She issued the statement through North Carolina lawyer Wade Smith.

“We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief,” she said in a statement that listed the names of all 32 killed. “And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced.”

On Monday morning, Cho, 23, an English major, killed two students inside a dormitory, then about 21/2 hours later killed 25 more students and five teachers inside Norris Hall. It was the worst shooting spree in U.S. history.

FBI officials said press reports that U.S. authorities were protecting the Cho family were not true.

Miss Cho’s statement came on the eighth anniversary of the Columbine (Colo.) High School shooting. Two students there fatally shot 12 classmates and a teacher.

Yesterday, church bells tolled at noon on the Blacksburg, Va., campus and across the country.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine declared yesterday a statewide day of mourning. The District and Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts and Maine were among the states that also declared a day of mourning.

Mourners yesterday donned orange and maroon — the university’s colors — to commemorate those wounded or killed in the attacks.

“Sometimes in the midst of tragedies, it’s easy to forget the things that matter most and become distracted by other things,” Mr. Kaine said at an interfaith prayer service at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Monroe Park in Richmond. “But we won’t allow that to happen. The thing that matters most today is to remember the family and friends who lost loved ones.”

State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said investigators are making “very promising and encouraging progress” in the search to resolve unanswered questions about the attack.

“They seem to be really pushing,” said Miss Geller, who declined to elaborate on the details of the investigation.

Miss Geller’s statement comes a day after police filed a search warrant for the laptop and cell phone of Emily Jane Hilscher, 19, one of the two students Cho fatally shot in the first attack, at West Ambler Johnston Hall.

“The computer would be one way the suspect could have communicated with the victim,” the warrant stated. However, the document did not outline why police think Cho may have contacted her.

Also yesterday, the state medical examiner’s office said all 33 bodies have been released. Cho killed himself in the second attack.

Mr. Kaine continued to work on filling two more spots on an independent commission created to review how the university handled the situation — including why the campus was not locked down after the first attack, the emergency response to the attacks and why clear warning signals about Cho’s mental instability did not lead to more action.

Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security secretary and a member of the panel, said on CBS’ “The Early Show” early indications show the massacre appeared unavoidable.

“It’s difficult to assess right now,” he said. “I think my preliminary judgment would be probably not, but I think that is one of the reasons Governor Kaine has suggested that we pull together a terrific committee.”

New reports emerged from South Korea yesterday, where Cho lived in relative poverty with his parents until he was 8 and emigrated with his family to the United States.

Cho “troubled his parents a lot when he was young because he couldn’t speak well,” said his 81-year-old grandmother who gave only the name Kim. “But [he] was well-behaved.”

Until the attacks, classmates described Cho as quiet and sullen. Cho came to the attention of campus police twice in 2005 for sending “annoying” computer messages to female students, which resulted in his being sent to a mental health facility, and former teachers said his writings were disturbing. However, such behavior was nothing compared to the cold, systematic way he shot his victims, survivors said. The so-called “mass media manifesto” Cho made, then mailed to NBC News between the two attacks, was even more chilling. In the DVD pictures and videos, Cho wields a hammer, then two guns and rants about his disillusioned life.

“Thanks to you, I died like Jesus Christ to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people,” he says in one video.

Yesterday in the District, flashes of orange and maroon could be seen among throngs of people near the Capitol.

Area businesses even encouraged employees to participate in “Orange and Maroon Effect” day, originally started for fans at university athletic events.

The Rockville-based Dataprise Inc., an IT consulting firm, asked its roughly 90 employees to support Virginia Tech.

“As I’ve been walking around today, I’ve seen a number of people wearing maroon and orange and you just know what that reason is,” said corporate recruiter Cristin Kellogg, who helped organize participation.

It’s a small contribution at a time when many people feel powerless, she said.

“There’s nothing we can do directly,” she added. “I think a lot of people just really have felt overwhelmed.”

Employees at Starbucks coffee shops in the area pinned orange ribbons to their green aprons as a small statement of support.

“Many of our partners knew someone or had a family member that was impacted by this horrific tragedy,” said Carter Bentzel, a marketing manager for Starbucks’ mid-Atlantic region, which includes the District, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. “It’s really resonated with a lot of stores.”

President Bush also participated in the day of mourning, wearing an orange-and-maroon tie as he headed to Grand Rapids, Mich., to deliver a speech on the global war on terrorism.

Several memorial services have been organized throughout the area to honor the victims, six of whom went to high school in Northern Virginia.

Fairfax County public schools canceled all evening activities last night and held a memorial service at Robinson High School for students, graduates, family and friends affected by the massacre.

Five of the victims graduated from Fairfax County high schools: Erin Nicole Peterson, 18, who graduated from Westfield High School in 2006; Mary Karen Read, 19, who graduated from Annandale High School in 2006; Reema Samaham, 18, who graduated from Westfield High School in 2006; Leslie Sherman, 20, who graduated from West Springfield High School in 2005; and Maxine Turner, 22, who graduated from Madison High School in 2003.

Another victim, Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva, 21, graduated from C.D. Hylton High School in Prince William County, Va.

A memorial Mass for Miss Read was scheduled for last night at St. Mary of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church in Fairfax Station, and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington has scheduled numerous memorial services over the next week.

Jen Haberkorn contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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