The massacre at Virginia Tech, while the focus of the national media, has a greater importance among lawmakers and especially their staffs and other Washington industries because many know Tech students and their families.
Within hours of the Monday shootings, for example, networks of Hill aides, lobbyists, reporters, and political strategists with ties to the school that's just four hours away began E-mailing and calling to check the status of family and friends. A Hill aide said that he has been forwarding E-mails from friends and mining Yahoo accounts for more news of the shootings.
"It's a big school, but we're a tight family really," he said. Church groups with prominent Washingtonians also spread the word through telephone and E-mail networks. One adviser to congressional Republicans said his church has been the clearinghouse for many of those E-mails coming from Virginia Tech students.
In one, a student revealed that he was in the line of fire:
"I was actually in Norris during the shooting. We barricaded our classroom door to keep the shooter out and when he couldn't get in he shot the door and tried to get in again. After that he sort of gave up. Definitely surreal, I still can't believe it happened. I don't think I know anyone who was hurt, although it's hard to take account of that. Anyway, just wanted to respond so you guys aren't worried, I'll see you guys in like 4 months."
The shooting also sparked a quiet debate over gun control that is sure to grow.
"Maybe this will give some backbone to Democrats who've been so quiet on it," said a House Democratic aide. And it has forced a major schedule change in official circles, even affecting the presidential race. For example, GOP front-runner Rudy Giuliani was scheduled to appear at a suburban Maryland synagogue but canceled.