NEAL CONAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. We'll get to "Hard Times" in just a moment, but we want to keep you up to date on developments at Virginia Tech today. The campus there on lockdown after a gunman killed a police officer during a traffic stop. A second person was also killed; that person so far unidentified.
Campus officials have told everyone to stay in a secure place indoors. They've told visitors to stay away. Police continue to search for the shooter. This, of course, a ghastly echo to the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, where 33 people died.
We turn now to Mallory Noe-Payne, a student at Virginia Tech and an intern with NPR member station WVTF in Roanoke, Virginia. She's reporting on the story for that station. Thanks very much for being with us.
MALLORY NOE-PAYNE: Hello.
CONAN: And is there anything you can add to the news that we've already heard?
NOE-PAYNE: I think that things are just really uncertain. Most students are getting their information from news outlets like this, and then also from the alert system that Virginia Tech sends out. So I think there's just a lot of rumors and uncertainties out there about what's going on.
CONAN: Have you been able to talk with any of the students?
NOE-PAYNE: I have. I've talked to students very close to campus. Virginia Tech's campus is right next to downtown. So there's a lot of students. It's the middle of exam season so most people were studying somewhere. And I was able to get in contact with some students whose studies and, even in some case, finals were interrupted.
CONAN: And what do they tell you?
NOE-PAYNE: That they're just doing their best to stay calm, get in touch with friends who are on campus and in dorms, and that they're doing their best, also, to get in touch with families and let them know that they're safe.
CONAN: I assume they're using Facebook, Twitter, that sort of thing?
NOE-PAYNE: Yeah, I think social media is really playing a huge part in the confusion of information that's going on, yeah.
CONAN: As we mentioned, there was that awful incident four years ago. There will be relatively few students on campus now who were there then.
NOE-PAYNE: There will be, but I did actually manage to talk to a master's student who was walking away from campus, who was getting off campus, who was here for those shootings as well. And he said that a lot of time has passed since then, but he was just trying to get away.
CONAN: Just trying to get away - but the memories must be awful.
NOE-PAYNE: Yeah, he said that that incident, he said, was actually more surreal than this one was, for him. That was the word he used, surreal.
CONAN: We need to - we'll be, obviously, staying in touch with this story and bringing people up to date. As of yet, nobody knows where the gunman is; could be on campus, could be off campus. Nobody knows?
NOE-PAYNE: Yeah, I don't think so. The last information I heard via a police scanner was that they were going through building by building, and that they were bringing in federal and state law enforcement as well.
CONAN: And the other question will be: Did the systems that the university put in place after the 2007 incident - how well did they work? And, well, we're going to have to wait for a resolution of this incident to see if there's an answer to that.
NOE-PAYNE: Yeah, I definitely think that's true. Their system has been a lot updated since that time - the VT alerts - especially in response to the fact that they're currently going through a lawsuit based on how they responded last time, so...
CONAN: Well, Mallory Noe-Payne, thanks very much for taking the time to speak with us. And we hope this all ends quickly and without further injury to anybody.
NOE-PAYNE: Of course, yeah.
CONAN: Mallory Noe-Payne, an intern with NPR member station WVTF in Roanoke, Virginia, reporting on the story for the station. "Hard Times" coming up. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.