- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

BLACKSBURG, Va. | Thousands of documents and e-mails related to the killings at Virginia Tech, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, were made available to the public Monday.

However, only a few people sat at the Newman Library’s lone computer terminal that had access to records of the April 16, 2007, campus rampage in which 33 people, including the gunman, died.

Library assistant Ann Keys said the reference desk had one call Monday morning about the archive, which contains roughly 7,600 documents and e-mails.

The file also could be accessed at a terminal at the Library of Virginia, in Richmond. But its only users Monday afternoon were reporters, spokeswoman Jan Hathcock said.

Virginia Tech was required to set up the archive under terms of an $11 million settlement with families of student Seung-hui Cho‘s victims to avoid lawsuits.

Among the documents are records and e-mails about Cho, who committed suicide after killing two people in a dormitory, then 30 in a classroom building. Also included is correspondence from university leaders the day of the shooting and the following day.

Families of those killed and the two dozen injured have had access to the file with private codes since mid-December.

The student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, gained access to the archive in December and has had 61,000 visits to the material it posted on its Web site, Editor-in-Chief David Grant said Monday.

Almost half of the visits were on Dec. 20, two days after the material was posted, he said. Visits have declined since then.

The archive is set up as a database that can be searched with key words, but the college newspaper staff organized posted material by categories.

By far the most popular, Mr. Grant said, were e-mails from English faculty members to and about Cho. They portray a young man who was uncomfortable in social settings and whose writings and class behavior were disturbing.

Several family members who have searched through the archive said they found it difficult to negotiate.

“It’s so time-consuming, because it’s not in any order,” said Suzanne Grimes, whose son, Kevin Sterne, was wounded but survived.

Public access to the archive was delayed to give family members time to review the material.

University spokesman Larry Hincker said the school wasn’t required to provide public access to the archive. However, the material eventually could be available to anyone with Internet access if the school’s technical staff determines the site can handle a large volume of traffic.

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