Virginia Tech shooting still haunts VSP head 10 years later

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — All this week, 8News is remembering the Virginia Tech Shootings that claimed 32 innocent lives 10 years ago.

At the center of the tragedy: The head of Virginia State Police, who recently sat down with 8News Anchor Morgan Dean.

“The Most horrific scene I’ve ever seen in my life,” Virginia State Police Superintendent Colonel Steven Flaherty recalled.

Even nearly 10 years later, Flaherty can’t forget what he saw inside Virginia Tech’s Norris Hall on April 16th, 2007.

“Short of being in combat, I’m not sure any of us had ever been in such a scene,” he said.

The shootings that left 32 people dead and more than a dozen injured thrust Virginia Tech into the National and International Spotlight. Colonel Flaherty and VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller became the face of the tragedy and the investigation during regular news conferences broadcast around the globe.

“The Most horrific scene I’ve ever seen in my life.” — VSP Colonel Steven Flaherty

“Dealing with that many members of the media from around the world, It’s very daunting,” Flaherty said. “That room was overwhelming when you looked at the dozens and dozens of cameras and reporters. There was too much work to be done to even think about it at that time.”

Virginia State Police would have 323 employees on scene in Blacksburg the first day. That number swelled to 450 by the next.

“We had a trooper or agent assigned to each family of the 32 families to be there to help communicate to them the things going on,” Flaherty said.

Colonel Flaherty is still upset at accusations that law enforcement didn’t do much during the time between the first murders at West Ambler Johnston Hall and the shootings inside Norris Hall.

“There was so much work going on in that two-hour period, it was anything but a gap,” he explained. “A huge effort by all of our law enforcement partners trying to find out what happened.”

He is happy that the Tech shootings became a wakeup call for others schools to update their notification and early warning systems.

“We have vulnerabilities, we always will,” he said. “The risk is always there, everyone is more observant than we were prior to April 16th.”

“The kids, they were our future. The professors: Molding our future. We lost so much that day.”

Flaherty says the most emotional moment for him in the hours and days after the shootings was when the names of the dead were first read aloud. Ten years later those victims are still very much on his mind.

“When I think about April 16th, I immediately think about those families,” Flaherty said. “The kids, they were our future. The professors: Molding our future. We lost so much that day.”

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