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Seung-Hui Cho Was My Classmate
Jennifer Chapman shares her memories of the quiet boy who became the Virginia Tech shooter
Na-young Han (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-20 14:42 (KST)   
Jennifer Chapman (22) is a senior who attends James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is an alumnus of Ormond Stone Middle and Westfield High School where Seung-hui Cho, the shooter of the Virginia Tech massacre, graduated. I met her in the Carrier Library at JMU.

Jennifer Chapman
©2007 Na-Young Han

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What do you think of the massacre at Virginia Tech?

Right away the idea of a shooter silently killing 33 people was scary to think about. I wondered how anyone could shoot so many people without saying a single word to his victims. But that strange detail made sense when I saw the pictures of Seung Cho on the television news. Seung went to the same high school as me.

How long have you known Cho?

We went to the same middle and high school. I had some classes with Cho in middle school. And in ninth grade we went to different high schools, but were in the same class again when Westfield High School opened in Chantilly the next year. He was shy and quiet. We knew him as Seung Cho.

What type of person was Cho?

He was very quiet and shy. He didn't say anything. He never had a friend that I knew about. I sometimes saw him riding a bike alone in my neighborhood in Centreville.

How was Cho in school?

He took honors classes, and did his work well. He didn't say anything to teachers or other students. To say he was quiet is an understatement. He didn't talk at all. If we had an oral presentation in Spanish class, he didn't have to do it. We never expected him to present in the class.

Do you think Cho was just being awkward?

We thought it was awkward, but it seemed like his choice. I don't think he was excluded, made fun of or taunted or anything like that. People tried to include him, but after a while they accepted that he didn't want to talk, so they gave up.

How about teachers? Did they take good care of him? Did they know he needed some mental, psychological or medical care?

They also tried to include him in class. However, he was quiet and shy, and they seemed to give up. They didn't understand that he needed psychological help. Everyone assumed his silence was sadness, not anger.

Did Cho show any signs of anger or resentment toward other students?

Never. He was very quiet. I still can't believe that he killed all those people. It sounds like a completely different person to the Cho I knew about. I don't know whether his personality changed.

Were there two Westfield High School graduates among the victims in the Virginia rampage?

Yes, but I don't think Cho would have known them.

There are media reports of Cho's silence, violent writings and stalking of women. He is described as having some psychological problems. What do you think of that?

His silence reminds me of his school days, but other details such as violent writings and stalking women are inconsistent with the high school student I knew. He was quiet. He would never have stalked a girl or talked to a girl.

Cho is said to have signed into a class at Tech using a question mark in place of his name.

I was very surprised to read the news. I also received an anonymous e-mail from someone who signed with a question mark. I now suspect it was Cho. The anonymous e-mail is the only sign that Cho ever tried to communicate with others.

Were you close enough to communicate with each other by email after graduation?

It was a message on facebook and I think it was sent to quite a few people from our high school. He never said it was him. It was just a riddle type message saying something like, "you don't know me but I know you."

Do you have anything more to say about Cho? What do you think of this tragedy?

He was so quiet, shy and awkward and didn't want to talk to others. But I think it wasn't a mean, hatred type of silence. I felt like he was hurting, not hating someone. This tragedy is a huge loss for the community. I feel very sorry that we didn't realize that he was so troubled.

©2007 OhmyNews

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