Moments after Virginia Tech emergency dispatchers sent out the alert that shots had been fired on Thursday afternoon, students and onlookers started sharing messages on the Internet:
Four-year-old photos of police officers searching buildings, incorrect accounts of the number of people who had been shot, rumors about the gunman's identity, and alerts of which parts of campus were at risk.
The facts, as authorities later reported them, were that a Virginia Tech police officer was shot during a 12:15 p.m. traffic stop, and the body of a second man had been found in a parking lot about a half a mile away.
"We know everyone wants to know what's going on," university spokesman Larry Hincker said at a 4:30 p.m. news conference. "We're doing the best we can to piece it together and let you know as soon as we know it."