AHS grad finds scene of horror at Virginia Tech

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The Sun Chronicle (Mass.)


When Virginia Tech student Jonathan Skinner went to bed Sunday night, he never could have imagined the carnage he would face Monday morning after a madman with a gun wreaked havoc on the placid and pretty campus.

Skinner, a student who serves as a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician, had three classes scheduled for Monday, but chaos took over when the lone gunman killed two people in Ambler Johnston Hall and then went on to slaughter 30 more in Norris Hall across campus.

At least another 26 were wounded.

Skinner, 22, a 2003 graduate of Attleboro High School, heard chatter on his police scanner about the first murder, as he awoke, although he didn't know it was a shooting. Then the rest happened.

"The radio pretty much exploded with shouting between the EMTs and police about what was going on," he said Monday in a telephone interview with The Sun Chronicle.

Skinner, who wasn't slated for EMT duty that day, didn't know exactly what was going on, but he knew whatever was happening was bad and went to the scene in his own car.

It was worse than bad, it was a nightmare.

"It was shocking," Skinner said. "I had never seen anything like it before."

Gunshots were still exploding when he arrived and the toll was painfully obvious.

But at first it didn't sink in that people, a lot of people, had been shot.

"I thought they were cut or had fallen or got injured," he said.

"But when they walked up to us we could see they had been shot, once, twice or three times," Skinner said. "They were shot everywhere. In the arms, in the legs in the back in the shoulders. It was kind of surreal."

Skinner said he didn't know if the shooting he heard was from the gunman or police, but at that point it didn't matter.

Neither he nor his fellow EMTs had time to think about the horror- they had to act.

Skinner, an Emergency Medical Technician with an Enhanced rating, along with the rest of the 40 or so members of the school's student staffed and run EMS organization who are trained to provide Advanced Life Support services, began to care for the wounded.

"I didn't think much about what was going on," he said. "You almost go on automatic pilot. You know what you have to do."

Most of the preliminary care was provided at the EMS station that was just a few hundred yards from Norris Hall where most of the killing took place.

At one point Skinner and a team had to go into the building to check for survivors and get them help.

The scene inside was horrendous.

"It was the worst thing you can imagine," he said. "There were bullet holes and casings everywhere, broken glass and then you see the bodies," said Skinner who compared it to something a combat soldier would see. "It's something you couldn't be prepared for."

He and fellow EMTs were on the job for about 12 hours and got help from communities in a 50 square mile area, he said.

And the job is not over.

Skinner is slated to work a 24-hour shift today.

"I don't know how I'm going to wake up (Tuesday), but I've got to get up and go in and work through it," said an exhausted Skinner.

Today's shift will end and he'll go home, but the memories of Monday will never be over.

"It's definitely something that's going to stick with me the rest of my life," he said.

GEORGE W. RHODES can be reached at 508-236-0432 or at grhodes@thesunchronicle.com.

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