The package received by NBC did not contain any explanation, any rationale why Seung-Hui Cho decided to send his multimedia manifesto to us. It was simply addressed, “NBC, 30 Rockefeller Ave. (not Plaza), New York, NY,” with the wrong zip code.
It was mailed from Blacksburg at 9:01 a.m. the day of the shooting, minutes before he went on his second shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.
What the nondescript package did contain was a printout of a .pdf file titled “axishmiel”, Cho’s 1,800-word manifesto broken up by the now famous photographs — 43 total: 29 of them showing Cho with his weapons: the Glock 9mm automatic and the .22 caliber handgun as well as a hunting knife. But two images seemed incongruous: smiling portraits. The more appealing of the two was the first image shown in the manifesto. It was almost as if he wanted to show himself as non-threatening, as a good guy. Of the remaining 14, all but one were of the weapons, the other a photo of a blue sky.
But what was as revealing about the manifesto was the time and date the .pdf file was last modified: 7:24 a.m., April 16, minutes after he had shot and killed his first two victims, and nearly two hours before he went on his second rampage.
Beyond the .pdf file were two other files with time stamps hinting at just how long he had been thinking about the attacks: two Microsoft Word files, and a six-minute .avi file. The Word files were drafts of the two sections of the manifesto, which he had written earlier, one being last modified on April 13 at 3:45 p.m. and on April 15 at 8:22 a.m. The sole .avi file of him reading the manifesto, titled “letter1” was recorded even earlier, at 9:40 a.m. on April 10, a full six days before the massacre.
The remaining 27 video clips total 24 minutes, ranging in length from 16 seconds to six minutes, all of them apparently recorded with a basic digital camera, a Kodak EasyShare DX4530 Zoom, with a $399 manufacturer's suggested retail price. None was time-coded, but some things can be determined. They were recorded in a small car and against a cinder block wall in what could be Cho’s dorm room. The files were not edited after they were saved from the camera, according to an analysis of the header information of the Quick Time movie files.
Their titles are varied and hard to match with their content: “all of You,” “am al qaeda,” “anti terror,” “as time appr,” “blood of inno,” “congrad,” “could b victim.” The rambling comments are those of an angry young man who felt persecuted, who felt that the world is against him, who felt he was a victim of personal terrorism.
But five of them are called “end,” “end 1,” “end 2,” “end car” and “end some life.” And each of those appears to be among the last recorded, perhaps between the shootings.
He addresses no one by name in any of them, although he does seemingly address Virginia Tech students in two as “brats” and “snobs” with “Mercedes” and “trust funds.”
There were no specific references to Virginia Tech, to any professors, students, dormitories or university buildings. He could have been talking or writing about any school anywhere in the United States. It was that generic.
There also appears to be a change of personality between the first clips and those marked as “end.” Cho is angrier, his language cruder and his speech more rambling. In many of the others, he mumbles and is apologetic about what he is about to do. And in at least two, he talks about what he has done “today.” He is dressed differently as well. In the earlier videos, he is dressed in a black T-shirt, sometimes wearing a hood. In the later ones, he is seen wearing his ammunition-laden vest, with a baseball cap, as if dressed for hunting.
It is all disturbing, all chilling, all incredibly sad. Nowhere is remorse, just fatalism and a tortured admission that he had postponed the attacks several times. I wish I had never seen any of it.