PORTSMOUTH, Va. - When Melissa Iverston, a Virginia Tech junior from Chesapeake,received an emergency alert email from the university Wednesday, itthrew her for a loop.
"It said we had a confirmed murder in the Graduate Life Centerand the suspect is in custody and they were asking us to stayinside," Iverston said.
Wednesday's homicide of a female student was an isolatedincident. Still though, the alert immediately brought Melissa backto April 16, 2007. She was on campus when another student murdered32 students and faculty.
Melissa's father and mother left Chesapeake and rushed toBlacksburg that day.
"Oh yeah, it was a punch in the gut again," said Jeff Iverstonafter getting a call from his daughter after Wednesday'shomicide.
Melissa and her parents say the response from the college wasmuch better Wednesday with the new emergency alert system thatnotifies students and faculty within minutes of a threat. It wasimplemented soon after the 2007 massacre.
"When you don't know what's going on, you are more afraid. Itwas nice to know what was going on. I was still upset Wednesday andit brought up bad memories, but I was happy to have the informationfrom the alert system so quickly."
Other colleges around Hampton Roads implemented similar alertsystems soon after the Tech massacre.
"It works great," said Norfolk State University Chief of Police,Anthony Walker. "Even my counterparts at other universities and theNorfolk Police have all shared stories about how fortunate we feelto have this tool."
Chief Walker said he has now used NSU's emergency alert systemseveral times, including last year during a threat in theneighborhood just outside of campus.
"During the holidays a year ago we had a hostage situation nearthe campus and we alerted students to stay where they were untilthe incident was rendered safe and so it's a tremendous help tous."
Chief Walker said having the system in place is a comfort tohim.
"I have the responsibility to protect over 10,000 people oncampus and this system has the capability of reaching thousands ofpeople in a matter of seconds."
The system at NSU, like most campus systems, not only sendsstudents and faculty emails to their web addresses, it alsocontacts them on their cell phones and home phones.
Melissa's father says he feels much better about his daughterbeing on campus now that Virginia Tech has the alert system. Andsays he does not blame the university at all for not installing thealert system sooner, before the 2007 massacre.
"I don't blame Tech's administration at all because if we couldplan for everything, there would not have been a September 11, andthere was."
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.
Hampton Fire units arrived at the scene of a residential fire in the 3800 block of Shell Road just after 6 p.m.
One person was able to get out of a Newport News house safely after police say a man fired a gun.