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Injuries Heal, but Mental Scars May Last Much Longer

The 9mm jacketed hollow-point bullets Cho used exacerbated some injuries, says Sydney J. Vail, director of trauma at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The rounds spread into metallic petals
The 9mm jacketed hollow-point bullets Cho used exacerbated some injuries, says Sydney J. Vail, director of trauma at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The rounds spread into metallic petals "like a flower" when they hit the body. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

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"There's two kinds of health to be looking at, the physical health and the mental health," said Roger O'Dell. "So far, he's been good in that regard. But to tell you the truth, none of us have had time to take it in and think about what happened and how bad it was."

It might be days, weeks or months before the wounded feel the full emotional weight of what they have experienced, said Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists, who counseled students at Columbine High School after the shootings in 1999. About one in five will experience severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other serious maladies, he said.

"Here you have a beautiful, pastoral campus, a lovely quiet setting, and now it will never be the same," he said of Virginia Tech. "I hate to admit it, but it will never be the same."

A year after Columbine, mental health groups saw a spike in families seeking help for depression and substance abuse attributed to a delayed reaction. The community experienced a rash of suicides, and much of the school's staff has quit, said Feinberg and others familiar with the school.

But about 60 percent of those exposed to trauma cope with support only from friends and family, Feinberg said.

Virginia Tech student Colin Lynam Goddard, 21, of Richmond was shot three times but was on his feet Thursday, impatiently testing his doctors' limits. "This morning he walked five or six steps in his room. They were ready for him to sit down, and he said 'Let's go into the hallway,' " his mother, Anne Lynam Goddard, said.

Although they've had the news on, they haven't been paying much attention. But Colin recognized himself in an iconic photograph of a young man and woman being carried out of Norris Hall.

"You can see his head kind of hanging down; that's my son," said Anne Goddard, president of the Richmond-based Christian Children's Fund.

The Virginia State Police trooper who carried him has visited, and friends have been coming. There have also been quiet moments as a family. Medical personnel had put mother and son on the phone together as Colin was first in the rush of the emergency room.

"He said today that he felt safe once he heard my voice," Anne Goddard said.

Cho shot twice into Chang Min Pak, 27, of Seoul -- through his side, arm and hand. Recovering at his apartment in Blacksburg, he said in a telephone interview that his physical wounds are healing, but the ordeal is too painful to talk about. "I guess I need some rest," he said.

The family of Justin Klein, a 2004 Catonsville High graduate who was shot twice in his leg and once in his elbow, released a statement yesterday saying he'd be released from the hospital soon.


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