Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Sqaud member remembers April 16, a decade later

One paramedic was a student at Virginia Tech during the mass shooting


BLACKSBURG – Emergency responders from Blacksburg and its surrounding communities answered the call for help April 16, 2007.

Members of the Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad were among the first on the scene and helped transport several people hurt on that tragic day at the Virginia Tech.

EMTs and paramedics never know what they will encounter when heading to a call. This was the same situation the morning of April 16, 2007.

“We had a good impression just from the tone of the voice from the dispatchers how serious it was going to be,” said Sydney Gay, now a Paramedic at Blacksburg Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Gay, a sophomore at Tech at the time, just finished a night shift as a 20-year-old EMT when she heard the call for a shooting at Norris Hall.

“They said shots fired, multiple people down,” recalled Gay. Those working with the rescue squad at the time were the first ambulances to respond to the scene, which Gay described as something you never want to experience.

“At first it was disbelief. Shock and then fear. It was utter chaos, or it felt like it,” said Gay. She said all the patients her squad transported to LewisGale Hospital in Blacksburg survived their injuries.

“I was upset. We were all fighting back tears just trying to do our jobs and waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Two women she knew from school died during the mass shooting. In the 10 years since the shootings, Gay became a physician assistant at LewisGale Montgomery. It’s her way of continuing to help others in her community

“It is still difficult to accept, but we moved forward in a positive way. I think it’s made the community stronger and our rescue squad. I feel like we are a little bit more prepared now to handle something like that, God forbid,” said Gay.

Gay said she will spend this week reflecting and remembering the lives affected by this tragic event. Moving forward, the rescue squad set up a task force to better handle these situations.

“And that is where we train willing and able individuals to answer when we called the warm zone for instants like that. Where the immediate threat is secure but there is still a relative amount or danger with that. And he aims to get providers into patients sooner,” said Gay.

Gay plans to participate in the Run in Remembrance Saturday morning.