Andrew Undercoffer, a freshman, reads inscriptions on one of the many boards set up in the Drillfield on the Virginia Tech campus. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
The Drillfield -- a large open lawn area in the center of the Virginia Tech campus -- has become a place for public grieving and prayer.
A low, curved stone wall in the field is now adorned with flowers and candles resting in front of it. A new stone formation also has appeared facing it: a semi-circle of 32 stones – one for each of the gunman Cho Seung-Hui’s victims. Each stone has a flower stem or two resting on top along with a small Virginia Tech flag.
After taping the “Today” show on the Virginia Tech campus on Wednesday, co-host Matt Lauer shared his thoughts on covering the tragedy with MSNBC.com’s Petra Cahill.
Q: You’ve covered so many of these tragedies. What stands out with this one?
A: All of us in this business have unfortunately had to go to communities that have been ripped apart by some sort of violent tragedy, and it’s amazing to see the different responses that people have. Often you’ll find – and it’s completely understandable – that they want nothing to do with the media. They want you to get out, they want you to stay away and give them their time to grieve and come to terms with it.
Emotions are spilling over at Virginia Tech.
Walking around the campus, examples are everywhere: Many students still seem to be in shocked disbelief, tears streaming down their faces.
Students at Virginia Tech are turning to a familiar tool to help themselves process their grief and bewilderment following Monday’s massacre: the popular college social networking site Facebook.com.
A review by MSNBC.com reveals that thousands of pages focusing on the tragedy have been created in the 48 hours since gunman Cho Seung-Hui’s rampage.
In a forlorn formality that will be repeated often in the coming days, the medical examiner in Roanoke has released the bodies of two victims of the Virginia Tech shooting to their families.
Robert Parker, a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Health, tells NBC News that the first bodies were released Tuesday. He did not identify the victims.
As the thousands drifted away from the candlelight vigil on the Virginia Tech drillfield Tuesday evening, a song rose from a circle of two dozen lights.
"O mothers, let’s go down. Come on down, don't you wanna go down? O mothers, let’s go down. Down in the river to pray..."
We had a very surreal moment over a quick dinner at a pub in Blacksburg, Va., tonight.
Correspondent Don Teague and I entered the restaurant to grab a bite to eat and see if we could find a TV to watch NBC Nightly News. Inside music was playing, beer was flowing and pool balls were flying. On the surface, it seemed like a typical happy hour in a typical college town. But, then it was 6:30 p.m. and someone at a nearby table asked the waiter if one of the TV channels could be changed to NBC.
For Neil Steiner, a doctoral student in electrical engineering who has been studying at Virginia Tech for seven years, watching Tuesday’s convocation with thousands of other students and parents in the university’s sun-filled football stadium was the perfect salve for a very bad hurt.
The mood inside the usually jubilant stadium was stoic. The intermittent silences when the sound went out on the Jumbotron broadcasting the convocation taking place inside the basketball stadium were at times overwhelming.
A Virginia Tech professor said Tuesday that she pleaded with gunman Cho Seung-Hui to see university counselors when it became apparent he was sinking into depression, but couldn’t persuade him to seek help.
“I kept saying, ‘Please go to counseling; I will take you to counseling,’ because he was so depressed,” said Lucinda Roy, director of creative writing in Virginia Tech’s English Department. “… I was told (by the counselors) that you can’t force anybody to go … so their hands were tied too.”
Tuesday’s convocation at Virginia Tech provided an opportunity for members of the Hokie Nation to show their support for university President Charles Steger, who has come under criticism for the delay of more than two hours before an e-mail was sent to students and staff notifying them that there had been a shooting on campus.
As the service in the basketball arena began, a student in section 7 held up a sign reading “Support Steger.”
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.