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TOKYO — With the aftermath of mass murder just yards away, Quinn Boyle and his English class remained barricaded in a room at Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.

They had few details on the nightmare. Outside the classroom window, they had just seen heavily-armed police yelling for students to stay inside, but they didn’t know exactly why.

“It took a couple of seconds to process what was going on,” Boyle said by telephone. “We really didn’t know what was happening.”

Boyle, a graduate of Zama High School in Japan, and his classmates put the shades down in the room, stayed inside and waited. They had to rely on TV and the Internet to get any information.

As it came, it only got worse.

At first, he thought the shooting at West Ambler Johnston Hall, where two people were killed by the gunman, was the extent of the shooting. Boyle phoned his parents and wrote e-mails to friends letting them know he was fine.

They had to stay in the building for two hours before being told to either go to their dorm room or leave campus.

It wouldn’t be until around noon on Monday that Boyle and many of the other students would find out 33 people — including the shooter — were dead in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Boyle lived in Japan for nearly eight years before graduating from Zama High last year and going to Virginia Tech to study business.

Former high school teachers and classmates didn’t find out until early Tuesday morning that he was OK. His best friend’s father, Chris McKibbin, the director of the teen center at Camp Zama, mistakenly thought Boyle had slept through the mayhem and didn’t have class.

In fact, Boyle was about only 80 yards away from Norris Hall, where the gunman killed 30 of the victims before shooting and killing himself. The suspected shooter was later identified as a 23-year-old student from South Korea named Cho Seung-hui.

After police began evacuating students and teachers, Boyle went to the Methodist ministry on campus to talk to and be around friends. Boyle isn’t a regular churchgoer, but there were about 20 to 30 people there and he didn’t want to hunker down in his dorm room. One friend told Boyle he was on the third floor of Norris Hall when the gunman started massacring people. The student was able to escape unharmed.

Boyle said he doesn’t know any of the victims or the people injured in the shootings, but the tragedy has shaken everyone on campus. To get through it, he said, everyone has taken solace in each other.

“It’s amazing how people are so close right now,” he said.

While details of the murders continue to emerge, some observers have criticized the response of university administrators. Students were not notified of the first shooting until two hours later. Boyle said such second-guessing and finger pointing is harmful at this time.

“It’s really weakening us when we need this time to be together and be strong,” he said.

Despite the tragedy, Boyle is adamant about staying at the university.

“I have no desire to leave this campus,” he said. “I like it here. I like this university.”

He said other students who want to go to college should have the same attitude. Although he believes the shooting could happen anywhere, it should not prevent people from taking risks.

“You can’t just give up living because of the potential hazards,” he said.

That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t grieve or attempt to forget what happened, he added. Before getting off the phone, he urged people to wear orange and maroon on Friday in support of the university. Virginia Tech alumni are encouraging the nation to wear the university’s colors all day.

He hopes his friends in Japan and elsewhere do the same.

“This is something I’ll never forget,” Boyle said.


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