After a windswept five-hour drive from D.C., correspondent Tom Costello and I arrived to a familiar scene in Blacksburg Monday night.
Having covered many breaking news stories in my career, I'm used to what it looks like when you get there. A sea of satellite dishes, what seems like miles and miles of cables, and cameras everywhere.
This one is much the same, but it feels different. Feels bigger, more urgent -- with more trucks, more cables and everywhere you look someone from the media trying to interview anyone who looks like a student.
There is a moment on the ground during every story where I find myself thinking, "Wow, this is surreal." This one is no different. This part of Virginia is beautiful -- green, rolling hills, sheep and cows grazing, the suns falling rays hitting a rushing river -- but now it's all juxtaposed with the ugliness of this event and the sadness of the loved ones and friends of those lost and hurt.
We met some students decked out in VA Tech gear when we checked into our hotel. They were checking in, too, along with one of their parents.
They lived in the dorm where the shooting took place, but on a different floor. They described blood-stained elevators and stairwells. They could have stayed on campus tonight, but as their mother said, "Who could sleep there?"
The biggest question on their minds: Did the hotel have Internet access? When told yes, they smiled, and one said, "That's all I need." They wanted to be with their friends, if only virtually.
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As officials, students and families struggle to come to terms with the tragedy at Virginia Tech, a team of MSNBC.com reporters and editors and NBC News producers and correspondents is on the scene.