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Originally published April 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 17, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Ties to college, town compound anxieties

For Marcus Jenkins and his wife, Cindy Forrest, Virginia Tech has been at the center of their lives for more than 20 years. The couple were undergraduate...

Seattle Times staff reporters

For Marcus Jenkins and his wife, Cindy Forrest, Virginia Tech has been at the center of their lives for more than 20 years.

The couple were undergraduate students at the Blacksburg, Va., campus when they met, and remain active alumni in the Puget Sound region. Forrest, who graduated in 1987, is president of the Seattle alumni chapter.

"It's a wonderful engineering school," Jenkins said Monday morning from his office at Microsoft. "The football team is wonderful. It really means a lot to us. It's where we met really great friends."

As Jenkins was talking by phone with a reporter, he stopped to talk to his boss, who had just heard that dozens of people had been killed by a gunman at the school.

Jenkins said it's "disheartening" that someone would cause so much terror and violence in such a safe city. "It's a sleepy little town in the mountains of Virginia," said Jenkins, who graduated in 1984.

A school with a growing reputation, Virginia Tech draws students from across the country. Among them is an engineering researcher named Dan, 29, who asked that his last name not be used. Dan is the nephew of Kathy Triesch Saul, associate editor at The Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest magazine, who spent an anxious morning trying to find out if he was safe.

It wasn't until late in the morning that she heard he was OK but had witnessed some of the panic caused by the shootings.

For Jon Norris, owner of the People's Pub in Ballard and a 1990 Virginia Tech graduate, the shootings hit close to home. He said a good friend attends classes in Norris Hall. When the shootings occurred, his friend was "locked down" in another building on campus.

People's Pub has been a haven for Virginia Tech fans since it opened in 2000. Norris hung a school flag on the wall and often has the television fixed to school sporting events. Last fall, he said, the pub drew more than 100 for the broadcast of a Virginia Tech football game.

On Monday, Norris and co-workers were fixated by the national television-news coverage about the shootings.

"People will come here to commiserate," Norris said.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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