“I never got to say goodbye.”
Omar Samaha had seen his sister, Reema, dance at a street fair in Blacksburg, Va., on Sunday. “I got to see her and tell her, ‘Nice job,’” he told Matt Lauer on TODAY. And then he had to leave.
He never saw her again.
“My dad woke me up yesterday morning and told me there was a shooting,” he said in the dead calm tones of someone who is still trying to come to grips with what happened. “I didn’t think much about it.”
They tried to contact Reema, but she didn’t answer her phone, didn’t respond to messages. Finally, hours after the shootings that claimed 33 lives at Virginia Tech, they learned that Reema was dead.
Samaha stood with Patrick Strollo, whose sister, Hillary, had survived after being shot three times. A day earlier, Patrick and Omar had been strangers.
Now, they were bound by tragedy.
Strollo learned of his sister’s injuries — she had a gunshot wound to the abdomen, another to the buttock, and she was grazed in the head by a third shot — through a friend who had had a mild heart attack. While being treated in the emergency room, he heard Hillary’s name spoken in a neighboring cubicle and spread the word that she was alive.
“Emotionally right now, her and our entire family are very grateful,” Strollo said.
‘It’s been surreal’
Ryan Clark tried to help one of the first massacre victims. It cost him his life.
“He was the wildest and most crazy person I ever met,” Allison Wood said on TODAY of the resident advisor — R.A. — who had gone to the aid of a resident in his dorm who had been confronted by her boyfriend. The boyfriend shot both of them and police believe he is the same gunman who went on to kill 31 more students and faculty at Virginia Tech University.
“He was really a funny guy,” said Vic Kasoff, another R.A. “He liked to mess around.”
“He and I would chat at 2 or 3 in the morning,” added Curtis Dahn, yet another student who had lost a close friend and now was trying to cope with it all.
Pictures of Clark — everyone called him “Stack” — show a young African-American man with a big smile posing with friends of every race. Clark, who had a triple major along with 4.0 GPA, was a member of the school's band. When news broke than an R.A. had been shot, they all thought of Clark. It was in his building and on his floor.
“It’s been surreal,” said Kasoff. “I was hoping he got shot in the arm, or something.”
Instead, while waiting in a staging area set up for students at the hospital at which the victims were being treated, “a student just told us, ‘He’s dead,’” said Wood. “He loved his residents. He would do anything for them - any hour off the day or night,” she said. “It made so much sense that he would go to help the girl.”
Craig Scott knew exactly what Samaha, Strollo and all the survivors of the worst mass shooting in American history are going through and how it will affect them for the rest of their lives. Scott and his sister were both students at Columbine High School. Scott survived. His sister did not.
“I knew yesterday would be a day they would forever remember, and their lives would never be the same,” Scott said. “I know I’ve never been the same. I know some of the things they’re going to be going through. There’s a lot of hurt, a lot of questions, a lot of anger.”