Local grad escapes college shooting | VailDaily.com

Local grad escapes college shooting

Steve Lynn
Vail CO, Colorado

BLACKSBURG, Va. ” Vail resident Josh Ball sat in a classroom two buildings away from where 31 people at Virginia Tech were killed Monday.

Ball, Virginia Tech freshman, also lives on the same dormitory floor where two were killed earlier, he said.

“I still can’t even wrap my mind around what happened yet ” to know I was in both places,” he said.

A gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech dorm and then, two hours later, shot up a classroom across campus Monday, killing 32 people in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history. The gunman committed suicide, bringing the death toll to 33, the Associated Press reported.

Ball woke up in his room at West Ambler Johnston dormitory about 7:15 a.m., around the same time two people were shot and killed on his floor. He didn’t hear gunshots, he said.

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Ball was walking to an elevator in his dormitory on his way to class when someone wearing a uniform told him to use the stairs on the other side. The official did not tell him about the two who were shot.

“I knew something was going on so I just listened to him,” he said.

Ball got outside and he saw someone wheeling out a man who he thought was injured. He later learned that that man ” a resident advisor ” had been killed, he said.

Ball left for his first class at the building Norris Hall, he said.

About 15 minutes after he left that class in Norris Hall, 31 people were killed. As he sat in his second class two buildings down from Norris Hall, Ball saw police cars drive past the ground-level classroom, he said.

Another student checked his e-mail and told the class a shooting had taken place. Ball called his mother, Mary Ball, from a telephone and told her he was OK.

He and others were locked down in the classroom nearby for more than two hours and he still didn’t hear gunshots.

Everyone was using his or her cell phone, so Ball couldn’t reach his parents, he said. He called and told his parents the whole story Monday afternoon.

Students bitterly complained that there were no public-address announcements on campus after the first burst of gunfire, the AP reported. Many said the first word they received from the university was an e-mail more than two hours into the rampage ” around the time the gunman struck again, the AP reported.

Ball hasn’t decided yet whether he thinks students should have been warned earlier, he said. His friends think authorities should have warned everyone of a gunman on the loose earlier, Ball said.

The distance from the classrooms to the dormitories probably made the possibility of evacuating students unlikely, said Matt McKenzie, 1996 graduate and Edwards resident.

“I just don’t see how that’s physically possible to do,” McKenzie said.

Investigators gave no motive for the attack. The gunman’s name was not immediately released, and it was not known whether he was a student, the AP reported.

Wielding two handguns and carrying multiple clips of ammunition, the killer opened fire about 7:15 a.m. on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston, a high-rise coed dormitory, then stormed Norris Hall, a classroom building a half-mile away on the other side of the 2,600-acre campus. Some of the doors at Norris Hall were found chained from the inside, apparently by the gunman, the AP reported.

Chris Ball said he thanks God that his son Josh somehow avoided the shootings.

“He was all around it and just missed having any contact with this guy by the grace of God,” said Chris, a Vail resident.

“He said, ‘You don’t realize how close I was to this,'” Chris said.

Like Chris Ball, local alumni said they were also shocked.

“I don’t think anybody could think that something like this could ever happen, especially in Blacksburg,” said Sean Molloy, 1997 graduate and Edwards resident.

Molloy and his college friends were e-mailing news stories to each other Monday, he said.

Ball had been talking to friends and family members all Monday afternoon, he said.

“It’s just a bad situation for everyone,” he said.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.

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