It can’t be said that no one was warned about Cho Seung Hui. In 2005, Prof. Lucinda Roy told authorities that he was "one of the most disturbed students that I had ever seen."
"They responded very quickly," she told Matt Lauer on TODAY. Campus police offered to put a guard by the door of his classroom or at Roy’s door. But they couldn’t do anything more.
"Their hands were tied because he had not made a direct threat," she said.
"Did somebody drop the ball here, Lucinda," Lauer asked the chair of the Virginia Tech English Department.
"I think it’s possible," she said.
But, she quickly added, "It’s so difficult afterwards, Matt, to turn around to yourself and say, ‘What could we have done differently?’ I wish that there were something that could have been done early when we were first alerted to this."
Cho’s professors had alerted Roy to possible problems. They showed her some of his writings.
"I was very concerned because it seemed to me he was writing from a place of anger and I needed to meet with him, talk with him and see what was going on," she said.
This was in the fall of 2005. Cho had not yet written the one-act play "Richard McBeef," that is posted on the smokinggun.com Web site. In that play, a son goes after his father with a chain saw. The play ends with a killing and the dialogue: "I hate him. Must kill Dick. Must kill Dick. Dick must die."
"I never saw any of those plays. I didn’t read that at all," Roy said. "I read other things that he’d written that were not, I didn’t think, as explosive as that but still enough to make me very worried."
She called Cho in to talk to him, and he stared at her through sunglasses for 20 seconds at a time before responding to questions.
Roy didn’t see Cho after 2005 and thought that he had graduated and left the school.
Lauer asked what she felt when she learned of the shootings.
"I think I probably felt a little bit like some of the students who were in the classroom," she said in a soft accent redolent of the British Empire.
"When holes are blasted into a community, and when the community is tight knit, then those holes are everywhere. It’s like going to a war-torn zone and seeing all the holes in the walls, and those are in us now."