04/17/07 — He was there and scared ... and so were his parents

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He was there and scared ... and so were his parents

By Rudy Coggins
Published in News on April 17, 2007 1:45 PM

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Jacob Sykes spent the better part of Monday afternoon assuring family and friends that he was OK.

And he was -- at least physically.

A freshman from Goldsboro, Sykes didn't hear the gunshots or take cover from the fire that froze Virginia Tech's campus Monday morning. He was attending a football meeting across the street.

It was just after 7 a.m.

About two hours later, Sykes was in class, taking his geology final exam.

Across campus, the same gunman from the earlier shooting is said to have opened fire on a different classroom, killing dozens more.

"Somebody told me that someone had a gun in a residential hall and that the police were over there," Sykes said. "I don't know if my professor knew about it."

But when his exam was over and he left campus, the 18-year-old said he knew something was wrong.

"It was flooded with police everywhere, speeding through (to the dorm)," Sykes said. "That's when it got real heavy."

School officials and law enforcement officers closed down the campus after the second shooting, described as the deadliest killing spree in U.S. history. It occurred just four days before the anniversary of Columbine.

Students were informed via e-mails that the university was in "lockdown mode" and were advised to stay in their dorms.

When the news broke on television, a co-worker informed Sykes' father, Jerry, of the shooting.

Jerry didn't know all the details -- or whether or not his son was OK.

And then he got the call.

"We've talked to him twice," Jerry said early Monday afternoon. "Physically, he's fine and emotionally, he's a little shaky. Everybody is kind of tense. It's tough because you have to sit there and not move."

Meanwhile, Jacob was still in Virginia.

"I'm all right," Jacob said. "In the beginning, I didn't realize how much of an impact it had (on campus). I'm still in shock right now. Everybody is real quiet and tuned in to the news waiting for the latest updates."

Jacob, who red-shirted this past season, isn't sure if the team will have its scheduled football practice today. The annual spring game is scheduled for Saturday.

Jerry said he still plans to take the family to Virginia Tech for the weekend, despite the harrowing events that took place within the last 24 hours.

"We might go up within the next day or so, depending on how things progress," he said. "It's a shock because it's a good community -- a family-type atmosphere. I am sure they will pull through this."

And he is sure Jacob will, too.