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Staffers, students under lockdown at Virginia Tech: Shooting brings back '4/16'

A gunman shot and killed a Virginia Tech University police officer Thursday, and a second person was later found dead. Police said they couldn't officially comment on whether the second person was the gunman, but authorities told NBC's Pete Williams they believed the second victim was the shooter.

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Memories of a massacre haunted Virginia Tech students and faculty Thursday after two people were shot dead on campus.

While campus officials did their best to make the school community feel safe while police pursued the shooting suspect, many people behind locked doors could not escape memories of April 16, 2007, when a mentally deranged student killed 32 others before committing suicide.

On Thursday, the campus went on alert shortly after noon when a campus officer was shot by a person who walked up to the scene of a traffic stop. A second body was found about a quarter-mile away. Authorities told NBC's Pete Williams that they believed the second victim was the man who shot the campus officer, and the alert was lifted later in the day.

"My feeling is a repeat of '4/16,'" a Sociology Department staffer who identified herself only as Brenda told msnbc.com during the lockdown. She was in McBride Hall with about 75 others.

"I feel secure and my building is totally locked, but the emotion is like 'here we go again,'" she said.

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She said those around her who were on campus in 2007 had similar feelings. Many students on campus now were not there in 2007 but know of the massacre, she said.

Although they felt safe, Brenda said, they weren’t sure what was really happening during the incident because they had no television or radio inside.

"The only news I have is what Virginia Tech sends via alerts, and what people are posting on Twitter, and I don’t know whether Twitter is accurate."

About 200 people were locked down inside the campus library and were safe, a circulation staff member told msnbc.com.

“People are attendant to noise and to news reports,” said the staff member, who did not want to be identified. “There’s no panic.”

She said that number of people in the library was typical for a Thursday afternoon.

At Squires Student Center, the mood was calm among the 400 people locked inside, said Matthew Banfield, undergraduate student representative on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

“University staff is with us, maintaining an atmosphere of peace and a level of comfort despite what’s going on," Banfield said.

Mario Ichaso, a Virginia Tech student, told NBC television station WSLS that few students were outside at the time of the shooting.

"Most people in the dorms were studying for finals," he said. Finals were to start on Friday, but campus officials canceled them for the day.

Virginia Tech communication studies Professor Bob Benton told WSLS that as soon the shooting alert went out faculty knew the drill and led students to safety in less than three minutes.

Still, they could not avoid “the scariness.”

“I just have to confess,” he said. “It's a burst of terror and then just pure sadness.”

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