Daughter’s final message: ‘I Love U Guys’

By MSNBC.com and Today

“R u Ok?”

That question was the first time John Michael Keyes had ever sent a text message from his cell phone. The response he got would be the last time he’d ever hear from his daughter.

"I Love U Guys," 16-year-old Emily Keyes messaged back.

Shortly after, Emily was shot to death by a gunman who stormed the high school she attended.

In an exclusive interview with the “Today” show's Meredith Vieira, Emily’s parents, John Michael and Ellen Keyes, recounted that tragic day and the last communication they had with their daughter. Parts of the interview aired on Thursday.

Emily was among several girls who were taken hostage and sexually assaulted by a gunman Sept. 27 at Platte Canyon High School near Bailey, Colo. As a SWAT team moved in, the gunman, Duane Morrison, 53, shot Emily to death and then killed himself.

John Michael Keyes said he first found out there was trouble -- but unaware that his daughter was involved -- when his wife called him that afternoon and told him, “something's going on at the school, shots fired in room 206."

Keyes joined other anxious parents waiting outside the school as the hostage situation unfolded.

Final words“When we knew she was in -- had been in the room, and we didn't know if she was still in the room, is when John Michael text-messaged her,” Ellen Keyes said.

Keyes had bought his daughter a cell phone for her 16th birthday, but he wasn’t sure how to send a text message.

“I'm a tech guy, but I look at my cell phone, and I've never sent a text message.  And I looked around and said, 'Is there anyone here under 30?  I need to do a text message.'"

A local reporter quickly typed in “R u Ok?” for him. Within minutes, he got a reply back: “I Love U Guys.”

The Keyes were at first encouraged to hear from Emily.

“You know, in hindsight, I'm saying she's in there, she's scared, horrible things happening in that room, and she sends that.  It's amazing,” Keyes said.

“It gave me hope that it wasn't so dangerous,” Ellen Keyes added. “And then he did text her back after that. Where are you?”

Emily never replied.

Classes at Platte Canyon High resumed Thursday for the first time since the shooting.

Visiting Colorado for a GOP fund-raiser on Wednesday, President  Bush expressed his sympathies to the Keyes family. He said he hopes a task force he set up can come up with ways to deal with school violence and prevent further attacks."We want to make sure the schoolhouse is a safe place," Bush said.

Tune in to “Today” Friday and “Dateline” Saturday for the full interview.