Four area students among the dead at VT
(Blacksburg-WABC, April 17, 2007) (WABC) -- The Virginia Tech shooting has shaken the nation, but it is an intensely personal tragedy for those who lost loved ones. Several local families knows the pain all too well.
At least three students from New Jersey were among those killed in the Virginia Tech massacre and another was seriously injured, according to the NJ governor's office.
The deceased have been identified as Matt LaPore (Dumont, NJ) and Julia Pryde (Middletown, NJ). A third victim from New Jersey has not yet been identified.
Sean McQuade, who is from southern New Jersey, was critically wounded when he was shot in the face. His family is with him at a hospital in Virginia.
A fourth student killed in the shooting, Caitlin Hammaren, who was initially believed to be a New Jersey resident, lived with her mother and stepfather in Westtown, N.Y., according to a family friend.
Eyewitness News reporter Sarah Wallace is in Dumont with more on how they are remembering twenty year-old sophomore Matthew LaPorte.
Dumont is a neighborhood where people have lived 15, 20, 30 years. That includes the LaPorte family. For now, the family has chosen to keep their grief private. They have been greeting well-wishers inside their home all day. We have, however, learned a great deal about Matt from friends. He was devoted to his family, devoted to his faith, and devoted to his country.
Matt LaPorte's friends have already begun to post their tributes to him on his MySpace.com page. LaPorte, a proud high school graduate of Carson Long Military Institute in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, is pictured in his uniform.
"Wow, six years, it ends like this," one friend posted. "You were my barracks buddy. This wasn't supposed to happen, at least not to you."
Many of the friends are former high school classmates at Carson Long, where today Matt's fellow drum corp members marched together in a show of support.
"As far as we're concerned, we lost a family member," a former instructor said. "I feel even worse because the world has lost someone who could have really made a difference."
LaPorte was on an Air Force ROTC scholarship to Virginia Tech, and he was proud of it.
The LaPorte's, who also have a younger daughter who is a senior in high school, all worshipped at the Sacred Heart Church.
"We have here, it's a very small parish, and it's a very supportive parish," Pastor James Bouffard said. "They will be surrounded by love and prayers."
Pastor Bouffard said that every Sunday when Matt was home, he would come to church, often wearing his uniform.
The family has lived in the same Dumont home for roughly 20 years. Today, Matt's parents and sister grieved in private with friends, letting the police chief speak publicly with friends.
"The LaPorte family would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to all their friends, family and community people who have shown their support to them in this tragic time," Chief Brian Venezio said.
Longtime next-door neighbor Marie Grieco said she learned of the news just this morning.
"And to have someone so close by to be involved, it's shocking," she said. "We're a very close-knit family street here."
Matt LaPore did want to make a difference. After he graduated, he wanted to become an officer in the Air Force. He wanted to serve his country.
The LaPore's are not alone in their grief.
Caitlin Hammaren, from Orange County, was also killed in the shooting. The 19-year-old sophomore, majoring in international studies and French, has been described as a great student and a leader with a promising life that was cut short for no reason.
Carolina Tarazona has more from Westtown.
There is just so much to say about this vibrant young girl and the tremendous impact she has had on her Westtown community. The flag at the local post office has been flying at half-staff in honor of Hammaren's radiant life.
"We were all very saddened when we heard what happened in Virginia," Superintendent Martha Murphy. "To have it hit so close to home is almost more than our students and those of us who knew her can bear, let alone her family."
She was a leader, a gifted talent and an only child. That's how she is being remembered in her hometown, where flags were lowered. She was a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Minisink Valley High School choir and she loved playing tennis. Just two years ago, she sang and played the violin here. But now, she is gone.
"We expect that they're beginning their lives and we've done we can to get them what they need to raise them, and then we send them off," Murphy said. "And to have her cut down like this, it's almost an unbearable tragedy."
Murphy says Hammaren's friends still vividly remember her. Today, there was silence in the halls after students learned that one of their own did not survive the massacre.
"The last place you expect this person you love to come to harm is in a college where they're preparing for their future," she said. "She's standing at the brink of a future."
Hammaren's parents are reportedly in Virginia, where the funeral services are expected to be held. They told the superintendent that what they wanted more than anything else was for their daughter's short life to be fully celebrated.
The principal of Minisink Valley High School in Orange County says Hammaren was one of the most outstanding young people he had ever worked with in more than 30 years as an educator. He called the 2005 graduate a leader among her schoolmates.
Middletown, New Jersey, native Julia Pryde, a 2001 graduate of Middletown High School North, was also among the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting.
Authorities say her parents drove to Blacksburg last night, only to learn their daughter was dead.
Pryde was a graduate student at Virginia Tech attending a civil engineering class at Norris Hall when she was killed, according to Saied Mostaghimi, chairman of the Biological Systems Engineering department.
Mostaghimi said Pryde was "an exceptional student academically and personally. She was the nicest person you ever met.''
Last summer, Pryde and her professor, Dr. Wolfe, had gone on a trip to Ecuador to do research on water quality issues. They were going to return this summer for follow-up work, Mostaghimi said.
At Middletown North, Pryde had been member of the swim team. She also played softball in town leagues.
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