Just wanted to let everyone know that things are fine here in College Park.
Like you, Laury and I were shocked by the news from Virginia Tech. Because I work every day on a campus like that one, it has always been clear to me that building security (except for dorms) does not exist. (The student paper today reported that the campus police do have the ability to lock all of the buildings electronically.) But I'm not sure that turning classroom buildings into fortresses is a good answer, either.
Many of the students here have friends and siblings at Virginia Tech, and some faculty know colleagues there; it was a very stressful day for them. (Last summer two students from there worked on our mass vaccination clinic research project; both are fine.)
There was a small fire in a rubbish pile in a construction site near the middle of campus yesterday afternoon. No injuries or damage, but lots of smoke, so they had to evacuate a building for a short time. The police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks, sirens and lights added to the sense of crisis.
My colleague Linda Schmidt led off our lecture today encouraging the students in our class to accept that they cannot understand this event. The instinct of engineers is to try to understand; instead we should have compassion even without understanding, especially for those under unusual stress, and we should remember to treat each day as a gift, to maintain some perspective, to reach out to those who care about us.