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Virginia Tech gunman's family says it feels 'hopeless, helpless and lost'
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The family of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho said Friday that they feel "hopeless, helpless and lost," and "never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence."
"He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare," said a statement issued by Cho's sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, on the family's behalf.
It was the Chos' first public comment since the 23-year-old student killed 32 people and committed suicide Monday in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.
Raleigh, N.C., lawyer Wade Smith provided the statement to the AP after the Cho family reached out to him. Smith said the family would not answer any questions, and neither would he.
"Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us," said Sun-Kyung Cho, a 2004 Princeton University graduate who works as a contractor for a State Department office that oversees American aid for Iraq.
"We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced," she said. "Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act."
The family's whereabouts is unclear. But authorities said they are under law enforcement protection.
The statement was issued during a statewide day of mourning for the victims. Silence fell across the Virginia Tech campus at noon and bells tolled in churches nationwide in memory of the victims.
"We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost. This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn't know this person," Cho's sister said. "We have always been a close, peaceful and loving family. My brother was quiet and reserved, yet struggled to fit in. We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence."
She said her family will cooperate fully with investigators and "do whatever we can to help authorities understand why these senseless acts happened. We have many unanswered questions as well."
Wendy Adams, whose niece, Leslie Sherman, was killed in the massacre, said of the family's statement: "I'm not so generous to be able to forgive him for what he did. But I do feel for the family. I do feel sorry for them."
"I do believe they're living a nightmare," she added.
Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said: "Based on this sorrowful statement, it is apparent that the family grieves with everyone in the world."
Cho's name was given as "Cho Seung-Hui" by police earlier this week. But the Cho family statement rendered his name in Americanized fashion as "Seung-Hui Cho."
During the campus memorial earlier in the day, hundreds of somber students and area residents, most wearing the school's maroon and orange, stood with heads bowed on the parade ground in front of Norris Hall, where all but two of the victims died. Along with the bouquets and candles was a sign reading, "Never forgotten."
"It's good to feel the love of people around you," said Alice Lo, a Virginia Tech graduate and friend of Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a French instructor killed in the rampage. "With this evil, there is still goodness."
The mourners gathered in front of stone memorials, each adorned with a basket of tulips and an American flag. There were 33 stones -- one for each victim and Cho.
"His family is suffering just as much as the other families," said Elizabeth Lineberry, who will be a freshman at Virginia Tech in the fall.
President Bush wore an orange and maroon tie in a show of support. The White House said he also asked top officials at the Justice, Health and Human Services and Education Departments to travel the country, talk to educators, mental health experts and others, and compile a report on how to prevent similar tragedies.
Seven people hurt in the rampage remained hospitalized, at least one in serious condition.