Gates, Jordanian King Express Condolences to Virginia Tech
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
AMMAN, Jordan, April 17, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today expressed condolences to the victims and families of yesterday’s mass shooting that killed 33 people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg, Va.
Gates’s comments came as he finished a meeting here with Jordan’s King Abdallah. “His Majesty expressed his condolences for the tragedy at Virginia Tech,” Gates said.
The secretary said he has a special understanding of what universities go through in the wake of tragedy of this magnitude.
“I would just add personally that as a recent president of a university that only about seven and a half years ago had its own tragedy, when 12 students were killed when the bonfire collapsed at Texas A&M, perhaps more than most I can understand the horror and the emotions at Virginia Tech and extend my personal condolences to the students and the faculty and staff there,” he said in a news conference.
Gates was interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University when a massive pile of logs collapsed Nov. 18, 1999, as students were preparing for a 90-year tradition on the eve of the school’s annual football game against its archrival, the University of Texas. Twelve students died and 27 more were injured. Gates later served four years as the university’s president before becoming secretary of defense in December 2006.
“Knowing the lasting impact of the 1999 bonfire collapse at Texas A&M, I can only imagine the emotional impact of what has happened at Virginia Tech,” he said.
Authorities today identified the gunman at Virginia Tech as Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old student from South Korea.
Cho killed 30 people in Norris Hall, an academic building, before killing himself. University officials said they were still trying to determine if Cho was responsible for an earlier shooting at a dormitory that left two dead; however, ballistics tests show that one of the two guns recovered at Norris Hall was also used at the dorm.