In wake of the Michigan State shooting on Monday, Feb. 13, here is a story about the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007. This is a story from BigAppleSoccer.com about Brendan Dunn, a freshman goalkeeper at Va. Tech and how he coped with the shooting that day.
By Michael Lewis
For Brendan Dunn, Monday was one of those days that was part surreal, part nightmarish and mostly forgettable.
But it will be a difficult day for the 18-year-old freshman goalkeeper from New Rochelle, N.Y. to forget, certainly not after the events on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in southwestern Virginia — in which a tragedy that left 32 people, most of them students, killed and at least 15 injured and hospitalized.
The college will be closed Tuesday as a day of mourning.
“It’s kind of surreal to me,” Dunn said via his cell phone Monday night. “It’s starting to hit me because I am hearing names of people that I know.”
Soccer fans in the area will know Dunn as the goalkeeper of the New Rochelle Raiders, one of the best Boys teams in Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association. Dunn backstopped the Raiders to four State Cup titles, one Region I championship and a third-place finish at the U.S. Youth Soccer nationals in 2005.
Dunn was accepted to attend Va. Tech in February, 2006. He majors in university studies.
Nowhere in his greatest imagination did he think he would be interviewed by reporters about the deadliest massacre in U.S. history.
Like many of his colleagues, Dunn was on his cell phone for a good portion of the day, calling friends to make sure they were all right and telling friends and family that he was OK.
Twice during an interview with a reporter the cell phone Dunn was using lost power — the first his and the second one a friend’s.
“I’m good,” he said. “A little flustered on what happened today. You never think anything like that would happen. I’m trying to take my mind off of it.”
Dunn had absorbed so much that stopped watching the news on television. That was working until a reporter from New York called and started to ask questions and like it or not, Dunn was forced to relive Monday.
He considered himself fortunate. Dunn was far away from the incidents and his teammates and close friends were not harmed or killed.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t tense moments. His girlfriend and some close friends have classes in the engineering building where some of the shootings took place.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking time,” said Dunn, who didn’t have his cell phone with him at the time. He had left it at a friend’s house.
But eventually he was in contact with his friends and girlfriend after the shootings.
“I know that most of my close friends are OK,” he said.
But not everyone was . . .
“I know people — acquaintances and people who knew people who were shot or injured,” he said.
Dunn comes from the metropolitan area, living in Westchester, just north of New York City. Dunn attended prep school at Fordham Prep in the Bronx, so he understands how rough it could get back home. But in rural Virginia, no one would have ever imagined the horrific events of Monday.
“Coming down here, it’s a completely different area than in the Bronx,” Dunn said. “You don’t understand why someone would do something like that.”
Some of the shootings occurred some 50 yards from where Dunn and the Virginia Tech men’s soccer team held practice at 8 a.m. Monday. They were preparing for their final spring practice game vs. Atlantic Coast Conference rivals North Carolina and North Carolina State this Saturday.
As it turned out one of the players walked out of his nearby dormitory past a stretcher with a wounded student on it, not knowing it was a shooting victim.
“On a college campus, you don’t think it’s a gun shot,” Dunn said. “You think it’s someone who partied the night before and didn’t get up.”
Dunn said he and his teammates thought they heard shots from the other side of campus.
“You could hear them in the distance,” he said. “But they weren’t close to me.
“I’m guessing. We knew we were still pretty safe at that point. It’s still scary.”
The team was notified of the shooting and wound up locked in the athletic facility for an hour.
“The police thought the gun man was on the tennis court about 50 yards from us,” Dunn said.
Dunn and his friends managed to get off campus around noon. By then, police had swarmed the school.
“We pretty much got off campus as fast as we could,” he said.
He eventually spoke to his parents, Brian and Kathy. “They were pretty excited I was all right,” he said.
Brian Dunn had come close to death some 6 1/2 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. He was supposed to attend a series of meetings with his company, AON, at the World Trade Center from Sept. 10-11. Instead, it was pushed back to Sept. 12.
“It was one of those close calls,” said Brendan Dunn, who was in eighth grade at the time of 911.
Dunn’s thoughts went to the school’s reputation.
He said he was wondering how “this would affect what people think of the school, the name of the school and getting the name dragged through the mud.”
Earlier in the day he said he was asked whether he would leave the school because of the shootings.
“I’m staying,” he said. “I’m not leaving.”
He was asked why.
But probably like many of his classmates, the day had caught up to Dunn Monday night.
For the second time, Dunn noticed the cell phone he was using — a friend’s — was going to lose power and asked the reporter for his phone number.
As the reporter was dictating his number, Dunn’s cell phone went dead.
End of interview — at least for the time being.
Dunn eventually called back and left a message. The reporter called again and got Dunn’s message on his end and left one of his. But apparently Dunn had had enough for the day and did not call back.
So, this particular story ends here. Brendan Dunn’s reaction and memories of the shootings and tragedy will continue for quite awhile.