Washing Away the Bloodstains

Blood spray, bullet holes and students leaping from second-story windows to flee a rampaging gunman.

Thirty people died inside Norris Hall on the Virginia Tech campus last week at the hands of Seung-hui Cho. Now the university must decide: Is it ever really possible to wash away the bloodstains or should the building be razed altogether?

"It's in the back of everyone's mind and it has been for days and will continue to be," said Liz Hart, a Virginia Tech senior and spokesman for the university's student government association. "Just the fact that we're talking about our options makes students feel better."

Among the student body, two camps have emerged with differing but perhaps equally valid points of view about the future of the multimillion dollar building.

One group of students say that tearing down the building would simply validate Cho's rampage. "Are we going to let that one man be strong enough to tear down a building?" asked Hart.

But others are eager to see the building gone. "There's a strong positive sentiment about just talking about taking it down," she said.

Either way, students say they will offer input as university officials consider what to do with the building. Cost, feasibility and of course the symbolic implications are all issues on the table.

"Our administration will listen to us," Hart said. "We're the ones who are going to be in the buildings."

Norris went from an academic building to a killing field last Monday as Cho chained shut the building's entrances and systematically opened fire in four second-floor classrooms.

Cho killed 30 people in Norris, injured dozens more and then shot himself in a building stairwell.

After three days of evidence collection from the Norris Hall crime scene, the Virginia State Police handed over control of the building to university officials, who promptly shuttered Norris Hall for the remainder of the academic year.

While that decision may have been clear-cut, a broader discussion about the long-term future of Norris Hall has already begun on the Blacksburg, Va., campus.

A Virginia Tech spokesman acknowledged Monday that the discussion about whether to raze or restore the building has begun as classes resumed with dozens of professors and classes normally housed in Norris Hall scattered throughout alternate locations.

"At this point in time, it's really too early, the university has no plans in motion either way," university spokeswoman Kerstin Roan told ABC News. "We're still healing, trying to move one."

Either way, Roan said, the university wants to make a decision about Norris that helps prevent last week's massacre from becoming the university's sole defining characteristic.

For now, a perimeter of flowers surrounds Norris Hall and many students have paid respects to the place where so many innocent members of the Virginia Tech community were terrorized last week.

"It's a valid question," said Pastor Tommy McDearis, one of two Virginia Tech police chaplains and a man responsible for notifying more than 15 families that they had lost loved ones in Cho's rampage.

McDearis likened Norris Hall to the bell tower at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman opened fire on the campus below in 1966, killing 15 and injuring 30. Until last week's massacre, it was the single bloodiest day on an American college campus.

After Whitman's rampage, the Texas bell tower deck was closed for two years, reopening in 1968. However, it was closed again in 1974 for 25 years after a string of suicide attempts.

Now Virginia Tech has its own bell tower that in some way will become a memorial.

"They're going to have to use it as a symbol," McDearis said, "and involve everyone in the community to turn it into something that is a symbol of peace."

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