A Year After Massacre, Family Lives 'in Darkness'

By Sandhya Somashekhar and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 12, 2008

Like so many thousands of Virginia Tech parents, Sung Tae and Hyang Im Cho spent the day of April 16 calling their son's cellphone and sending him e-mails, hoping he hadn't fallen prey to the man who was shooting students and professors at Virginia Tech.

The Chos' fears were confirmed when police officers, FBI agents and a chaplain showed up that night at their Centreville townhouse.

But the news was worse than they had imagined.

Their shy, quiet 23-year-old son was the student gunman who fatally shot 32 people before killing himself.

Nearly a year later, Seung Hui Cho's parents have virtually cut themselves off from the world. Relatives from South Korea have not heard from them. The blinds are always drawn at their home, and several windows are papered over.

The Chos, through an FBI agent who communicates with them regularly, declined a request for an interview.

"They continue to live in darkness," said Wade Smith, a North Carolina lawyer who has been assisting the family. "I think there will come a time when they are able to speak, [but] for now, they have made it clear to me they just want to be quiet and not say anything."

The family went into hiding the night of the shootings, according to the FBI agent, who has been a liaison between the family and law enforcement in the past year. She related the details of that first night on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

About 9 or 10 p.m., when a group of law enforcement agents arrived at the Chos' door, "there were tears right away," the FBI agent said.

The agent said she tried to make the Chos and their daughter, Sun Kyung, comfortable by asking them to sit together on a sofa in the living room. The agent pulled up a chair to face Sun Kyung, who was translating the news into Korean for her parents. The agent sat so close that their knees were almost touching. She put her hand on the daughter's knee and told her that her brother had been shot and killed at Virginia Tech that day.

As that news was sinking in, the agent told them that there was more.

"It was extremely difficult," the agent said. "I had to tell a family that their son was gone and that he was also responsible for this horrific tragedy."

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