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Virginia Tech shootings shock student who grew up in Plattsburgh PDF Print E-mail
Written by STEPHEN BARTLETT, Staff Writer   
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

PLATTSBURGH — Amanda Nizam walked by Norris Hall just 20 minutes before Monday morning's shootings at Virginia Tech took place.
The 18-year-old, who spent her younger years in Plattsburgh, received an e-mail at around 9:30 a.m. about a shooting investigation.
A second e-mail warned students to remain in their dorms, that a gunman was loose on campus.
"I wish the university had taken extra precautions after the first incident at Ambler Johnston (dorm)," said Nizam.
"Maybe they could have helped prevent additional people from getting shot because it was two hours before they sent out the (first) e-mail."
Monday's massacre began at about 7:15 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston, a coed dormitory. It continued around two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building a half-mile away. The gunman killed more than 30 people — he also died — in what was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Locally, the tragedy caused Plattsburgh State officials to think even more closely about campus security, which is currently being upgraded.
Nizam left her room at 7:40 a.m. for a chemistry lab at 8, oblivious that someone had already been shot at West Ambler Johnston.
She got out of class at 9:30 and walked past Norris Hall on her way back to her room.
"I still didn't know anything was going on."
Then, she read an e-mail, sent two hours after the first death, about a shooting in West Ambler Johnston dormitory that was being investigated.
"I didn't really make much of it. It was very brief and didn't say anything about locking down."
A half-hour later, a campus e-mail said that a gunman was on the loose and that students should remain in their dorms.


HIDING IN ROOM

Nizam and her roommate watched the news from their room, wondering what was happening and heeding warnings to stay away from their windows.
Nizam was shocked upon learning about the shootings at Norris Hall.
"I had walked by the building 20 minutes before that."
The situation only worsened as Nizam watched the news.
"At first, it was one confirmed dead, and then two and then 17 and now 31."
E-mails and calls from family and friends worried about her safety began pouring in, but busy circuits prevented her from making outgoing calls.
"I don't know if I know any of the victims because the names haven't been released yet."


STILL VISITS AREA

Nizam grew up in Plattsburgh, attending St. Peter's Elementary School until fifth grade. Her family moved to Virginia Beach in 1996. They continue to keep in touch with friends in Plattsburgh.
"The last time I was in Plattsburgh was the summer of 2004," Nizam said. "I always liked the small-town atmosphere and how everybody knows each other."
She's studying biology and psychology at Virginia Tech with plans to attend medical school.
"I don't feel less safe here," Nizam said Monday. "Unfortunately, this could have happened at any other university. Colleges don't have tight security like airports, and with a university this size you can only take so many measures."


PSU SECURITY

More than 25,000 students attend Virginia Tech, compared to fewer than 7,000 at Plattsburgh State.
"We do think about this issue at SUNY Plattsburgh," said University Police Chief Arlene Sabo. "Campus safety is an ongoing process, and we never say we are done."
The college is currently improving residence-hall security, with measures including strategically placed surveillance cameras and proximity-card readers.
"You will have to have your proximity card to get into your residence hall," Sabo said. "We think that will help cut down on any unauthorized individuals in the buildings."
Upgrades should be completed campus-wide by the next academic year.
University police train in rapid response, conducting drills themselves and with Plattsburgh City Police.
Sabo said anyone with ideas on how to help improve campus security should feel free to contact university police or e-mail her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
She further urged people to contact police if something or someone seems suspicious.
"I think it is really important for people not to feel embarrassed to call police. That is one way we can prevent things from happening. We are out on patrol, but we can't be everywhere at once."


FEEL FOR FAMILIES

Monday's tragedy shocked Sabo, whose thoughts were with the families and survivors.
Nizam's thoughts were with victims' families, too, as she continued to wonder about campus friends.
"It is very disturbing that someone could do all of this. I don't know what would drive you to do that. Why would you take so many innocent lives?"

 

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