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Kathy Bacle had just finished a late Monday night of studying at her family’s computer, and was about to log off and head to bed when she received an instant message from a friend asking her if she was watching the news.

Bacle switched on the TV, and the Taegu American senior — who’s planning to attend Virginia Tech next fall — watched in horror as the reports of the Monday morning massacre on the Blacksburg campus unfolded before her eyes.

“I was seriously shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” said Bacle, who got accepted last spring to Virginia Tech and had visited Blacksburg last summer. “Virginia Tech is one of the nicest, safest schools I’ve seen and heard of.”

That changed dramatically Monday at the picturesque campus on the fringes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Shots rang out on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston, a high-rise coed dormitory. Two hours later, a gunman stormed Norris Hall, a classroom building a half-mile away. All told, 32 were killed and 15 injured before the shooter turned the gun on himself, according to news reports.

“It’s really mind-blowing that it took place over there,” Bacle said. “Blacksburg is a college town, and it’s really safe there.”

Foregoing sleep, Bacle said she spent the rest of the night trying to get in touch with the five or so friends from her hometown of Stafford, Va., who attend Virginia Tech, along with three others who graduated from Taegu American three and four years ago.

“Most of them are OK,” Bacle said, adding that she’d been having trouble getting hold of one. She said she’d spent several hours early Tuesday on her Facebook.com account trying to get information on her friends.

A parent at Taegu with a daughter attending Virginia Tech heard about the massacre from Bacle. “I felt horrible because she heard about it first from me and she had no idea,” Bacle said. “Her daughter eventually called her later today, though.”

Others in South Korea also had been waiting for news Tuesday about friends and family members attending the Virginia school.

A message to Junior ROTC leader Donald Hedgpath indicated Tuesday that several former students of American military schools on the peninsula had checked in and said they were OK.

Bacle said Monday’s events will not dissuade or discourage her from attending Virginia Tech, where she plans to major in business information technology.

“For a split second I was regretting it,” Bacle said, “but now that I realize how many people have come together in my Virginia Tech class, I’m proud to be a Hokie.”

Monday’s tragedy was of a scale not seen on a U.S. campus since Charles Whitman, a former Marine Corps lance corporal, killed 15 and wounded 31 after climbing the 307-foot observation tower on the University of Texas campus before being killed by Austin police on Aug. 1, 1966.

That incident, as well as the Columbine High School massacre eight years ago in Denver, Monday’s events and others could give people pause to wonder if any campus is safe, Bacle said.

“I believe it really could have happened anywhere, anytime,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that it was to this extent, especially at such a location. Who would have thought about getting shot in a classroom, or even your own dorm? I’m sure a lot of college students are now afraid.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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