For Virginia Tech student Trey Perkins, the first sign of the crisis that had been unfolding on campus since early Monday morning came as his German class was beginning in Norris Hall. It was a popping sound.
“None of us thought it was gunshots,” the college sophomore said.
But within seconds the source of the sound became clear, when a gunman entered the lecture hall and shot the professor before turning his guns on students.
“He didn’t say a single word the whole time,” said Perkins. “He didn’t say get down, he didn’t say anything. He just came in and started shooting.”
Perkins and his classmates instinctively fell to the ground, turning over desks to create barriers between themselves and the shooter, who seemed to be firing randomly.
“He started shooting around,” Perkins recalls. “I’m not sure how long it lasted. It felt like a really long time, but was probably only a minute or so.”
Perkins said the most striking thing about the shooter was his stoic demeanor.
“He looked like, I guess you could say, serious," he told MSNBC TV hours after the incident. "He didn’t look frightened at all, he didn’t look angry. Just a straight face.”
Perkins' first thoughts were of survival — and the suffering of his mother if he didn’t make it. He tried to think of a course of action, but he was blocked in place by two overturned desks.
When the gunman finally left, Perkins and two other students, one of them bleeding from a wound to the arm, tried to brace the door closed to prevent his return.
“He started to try to open the door again, and then tried to shoot through the door, four, five, maybe six shots,” remembers Perkins. “Fortunately none of those shots hit anyone.”
As he and the other students still standing scrambled to help the injured, they could hear shooting elsewhere in the building.
Perkins said there were about a dozen wounded people in the classroom. He said he used his sweatshirt to try to stanch the bleeding in the shooting victims.
“There was blood pretty much everywhere. It’s just completely unreal … so hard to describe,” he said.
Perkins was one of just four people able to walk out of the classroom, fellow student Erin Sheehan was reported as telling the Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech's student newspaper.
Sheehan said the class had only about 25 people. “And I would say no more than two people didn't show up, were absent,” the paper quoted her as saying. “And of those of us that were in there today, only four of us walked out of that room, but two of us had been injured during the shooting.”
“It seemed so strange,” Sheehan reportedly said. “Because he peeked in twice, earlier in the lesson, like he was looking for someone, somebody, before he started shooting. But then we all heard something like drilling in the walls, and someone thought they sounded like bullets. That's when we blockaded the door to stop anyone from coming in.”
“He was just a normal looking kid, Asian, but he had on a Boy Scout type outfit. He wore a tan button up vest, and this black vest, maybe it was for ammo or something.”
“I saw bullets hit people's body,” Sheehan was quoted as saying. “There was blood everywhere. People in the class were passed out, I don't know maybe from shock from the pain. But I was one of only four that made it out of that classroom. The rest were dead or injured.”
MSNBC.com's Kari Huus contributed to this report.