Monday morning dawns with students getting up early to head to class.
At the West Ambler Johnston co-ed dorm, home to 895 students, there's some kind of incident, and shots are fired. Police are called and find two people dead. They conclude it was an isolated domestic dispute and that the danger is over.
The doors of Norris Hall open for the day, as students enter the engineering building to go to class. Nothing seems out of the ordinary.
With many students unaware of the violence in their midst, word of the dorm shooting comes in a widely distributed email that's received across the campus.
"Subject: Shooting on campus," the header reads.
"A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating.
"The university community is urged to be cautious and are asked to contact Virginia Tech Police if you observe anything suspicious or with information on the case. Contact Virginia Tech Police at 231-6411.
"Stay attuned to the http://www.vt.edu/
. We will post as soon as we have more information."
As far as authorities are concerned, whoever fired the shots has escaped the sprawling grounds of the university and is gone. It is now a police matter and officials decide it's safe for classes to continue.
It's now more than two hours after the initial shooting and the lines at the Blacksburg, Va. 911 outpost light up en masse. Panicked students call on their cell phones to tell authorities a man has come to Norris Hall and begun randomly firing weapons at people inside.
His first target is a professor in one of the classrooms. He then turns his weapons on the stunned students.
Police stop a man they describe as a 'person of interest' in the dorm shooting. "That individual was an acquaintance of the female victim killed at West Ambler Johnston Hall," explains Police Chief Wendell Flinchum. "He was stopped and detained for questioning. As officers were interviewing him, the shootings at Norris Hall were reported. We're still looking to him for information as the investigation continues."
A second email is sent out by university brass. This one is far more terse and a lot more chilling.
"Subject: Please stay put," it begins.
"A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows."
Within minutes of the second email, the university starts phoning resident advisers and asking them to knock on the doors of classrooms and dorm rooms, to spread the word about the danger faster.
But the campus is huge - some 1,050 hectares in length, described by one official as the size of a small city - and getting to everyone in such a busy environment over such a wide area is almost impossible.
While all this is going on, a gunman continues to blaze away in Norris Hall, picking off victims one at a time in rapid succession. His motive remains unknown, but his methodical task is succeeding all too well. Dozens lie either dead or seriously wounded.
Students trying to escape the carnage find chains on some doors, closing off their only escape routes. As the killer approaches, many break open windows or kick out screens, jumping several storeys to the ground in desperation, preferring broken limbs to the possibility of being gunned down.
The University sends out a third email.
"Subject: All Classes Canceled; Stay where you are.
"Virginia Tech has canceled all classes. Those on campus are asked to remain where there are, lock their doors and stay away from windows. Persons off campus are asked not to come to campus."
Police are on scene, hustling shocked students off the property and away from the area, still unsure what they're dealing with.
Many are told to enter unaffected buildings and wait for the all-clear signal. Others are simply shooed off campus altogether. No one else is allowed on the premises.
As TV stations, networks and the web pick up the story, word starts spreading quickly - there has been a massacre at Norris Hall.
The fourth and final email comes out of Virginia Tech's administration office. By now, just about everyone knows the worst has happened, as ambulances and police cars occupy the campus around the classroom building.
The email contains some details that would later prove to be false, but was based on the best information available as confusion swirled.
"Subject: Second Shooting Reported; Police have one gunman in custody
"In addition to an earlier shooting today in West Ambler Johnston, there has been a multiple shooting with multiple victims in Norris Hall.
"Police and EMS are on the scene.
"Police have one shooter in custody and as part of routine police procedure, they continue to search for a second shooter.
"All people in university buildings are required to stay inside until further notice.
"All entrances to campus are closed."
First reports indicate 22 are dead and at least that number are injured.
But as the afternoon goes on, the scope of the tragedy escalates. The death toll rises to first 29, then 30, and finally settles at 32. The number of injured sits at around 15.
A doctor at one of the local hospitals indicates the gunman was extreme in his cruelty. He fired at least three bullets into every single victim, and all the wounded patients he examined were suffering from some kind of gun related injury.
"There were leg, arm, head, face (injuries), the more critical ones actually had head or facial shots. There were chest shots, leg shots, arm shots. He was just shooting to kill," relates ER physician Dr. Joseph Cacioppo.
It has been more than three and a half hours after the initial shooting, when Norris Hall finally falls silent. The gunman saved his final bullet for himself, leaving the final bloody toll at 33.