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A look at some Virginia Tech victims

CENTREVILLE, Va. --Reema Samaha was a dancer, whether it was the classical ballet she studied as a child, the belly dance moves she used for a high school talent show or the spinning she did around the living room with her mother.

"She just danced and laughed and smiled," said Linda D'Orazio, a neighbor in suburban Washington.

On Monday, Samaha was shot and killed at Virginia Tech while sitting in French class. She was one of 32 people killed by 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui, an English major who went to the same high school as her.

Samaha, 18, was a member of the high school's dance team and had recently taken up belly dancing, a nod to her family's roots in Lebanon, where the Samahas visited each summer.

"She was just beautiful and when you watched her, I thought she was one of the most gorgeous girls in the world, inside and out," said Lauren Walters, a former classmate of Samaha's who now attends Clemson University.

Samaha and Cho both graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly -- Samaha in 2006 and Cho in 2003. But Samaha's neighbors and friends said they did not think she knew Cho.

Samaha's house in the neighborhood of tidy two-story homes is only about a mile from the town house where Cho lived with his parents.

On Tuesday, Samaha's parents were in Blacksburg as stunned neighbors stocked the family's kitchen with food, trickling in and out of the home.

A large photo of Samaha, a striking woman with long dark hair, sat in the living room next to pictures of her older brother and sister.

"It's a random act of violence. We can't understand how she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Lu Ann McNabb, whose children grew up across the street from the Samaha family.

The neighborhood kids used to make home videos in their back yards, often mimicking their parents. McNabb said the parents would sometimes watch the videos when their families got together to play games twice each year.

"We would laugh our heads off," she said.

A look at some of the other victims killed in the Virginia Tech massacre:

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Ross Abdallah Alameddine

Alameddine, 20, of Saugus, Mass., was a sophomore who had just declared English as his major.

Friends created a memorial page on Facebook.com that described Alameddine as "an intelligent, funny, easygoing guy."

"You're such an amazing kid, Ross," wrote Zach Allen, who along with Alameddine attended Austin Preparatory School in Reading, Mass. "You always made me smile, and you always knew the right thing to do or say to cheer anyone up."

Alameddine was killed in the classroom building, according to Robert Palumbo, a family friend who answered the phone at the Alameddine residence Tuesday.

Alameddine's mother, Lynnette Alameddine said she was outraged by how victims' relatives were notified of the shooting.

"It happened in the morning and I did not hear (about her son's death) until a quarter to 11 at night," she said. "That was outrageous. Two kids died, and then they shoot a whole bunch of them, including my son."

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Christopher James Bishop

Bishop, 35, taught German at Virginia Tech and helped oversee an exchange program with a German university.

Bishop decided which German-language students at Virginia Tech could attend the Darmstadt Technology University to improve their German.

"He would teach them German in Blacksburg, and he would decide which students were able to study" abroad, Darmstadt spokesman Lars Rosumek said.

The school set up a book of condolences for students, staff and faculty to sign, along with information about the Virginia shootings.

"Of course many persons knew him personally and are deeply, deeply shocked about his death," Rosumek said.

Bishop earned bachelor's and master's degrees in German and was a Fulbright scholar at Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany.

According to his Web site, Bishop spent four years living in Germany, where he "spent most of his time learning the language, teaching English, drinking large quantities of wheat beer, and wooing a certain fraulein."

The "fraulein" was Bishop's wife, Stephanie Hofer, who also teaches in Virginia Tech's German program.

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Bishop's personal Web site: http://www.memory39.com

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Ryan Clark

Clark was called "Stack" by his friends, many of whom he met as a resident assistant at Ambler Johnson Hall, where the first shootings took place.

Clark, 22, was from Martinez, Ga., just outside Augusta. He was a fifth-year student working toward degrees in biology and English, and a member of the Marching Virginians band.

"He was just one of the greatest people you could possibly know," friend Gregory Walton, 25, said after learning from an ambulance driver that Clark was among the dead.

"He was always smiling, always laughing. I don't think I ever saw him mad in the five years I knew him."

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Jocelyne Couture-Nowak

Couture-Nowak, a French instructor at Virginia Tech, was instrumental in the creation of the first French school in a town in Nova Scotia.

She lived there in the 1990s with her husband, Jerzy Nowak, the head of the horticulture department at Virginia Tech.

Richard Landry, a spokesman with the francophone school board in Truro, Nova Scotia, said Couture-Nowak was one of three mothers who pushed for the founding of the Ecole acadienne de Truro in 1997.

"It was very important for her daughters to be taught in French," said Rejean Sirois, who worked with her in establishing the school.

A student who identified herself as DeAnne Leigh Pelchat described her gratitude to Couture-Nowak on a Web site.

"I will forever remember you and what you have done for me and the others that benefit from what you did in the little town of Truro," Pelchat wrote in French. "You'll always have a place in my heart."

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Daniel Perez Cueva

Perez Cueva, 21, from Peru, was killed while in a French class, said his mother, Betty Cueva, who was reached by telephone at the youth's listed telephone number.

Perez Cueva was a student of international relations, according to the Virginia Tech Web site.

His father, Flavio Perez, spoke of the death earlier to RPP radio in Peru. He lives in Peru and said he was trying to obtain a humanitarian visa from the U.S. consulate here. He is separated from Cueva, who said she had lived in the United States for six years.

A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Lima said the student's father "will receive all the attention possible when he applies" for the visa.

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Kevin Granata

Granata, a professor of engineering science and mechanics, served in the military and later conducted orthopedic research in hospitals before coming to Virginia Tech, where he and his students researched muscle and reflex response and robotics.

The head of the school's engineering science and mechanics department called Granata one of the top five biomechanics researchers in the country working on movement dynamics in cerebral palsy.

"With so many research projects and graduate students, he still found time to spend with his family, and he coached his children in many sports and extracurricular activities," said engineering professor Demetri P. Telionis. "He was a wonderful family man. We will all miss him dearly."

Granata was known worldwide for his research into how muscles accomplish complicated movements, said Stefan Duma, another engineering professor.

"He liked to ask the big questions," Duma said. "When we had students defending their Ph.D., and he kept asking, 'Did we have the total solution?' He was really interested in whether we answered the big questions. That's really a sign of a great scientist."

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Caitlin Hammaren

Hammaren, 19, of Westtown, N.Y., was a sophomore majoring in international studies and French, according to officials at her former school district.

"She was just one of the most outstanding young individuals that I've had the privilege of working with in my 31 years as an educator," said John P. Latini, principal of Minisink Valley High School, where she graduated in 2005. "Caitlin was a leader among our students."

Minisink Valley students and teachers shared their grief Tuesday at a counseling center set up in the school, Latini said.

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Jeremy Herbstritt

Herbstritt loved to chat, so much so that high school classmates voted him "Most Talkative."

"Talkie, talkie, talkie, everybody likes to talk," read the description in the Bellefonte High School yearbook of the 1998 graduate. Below was a picture of Herbstritt, with a sly grin, talking on a pay phone.

Herbstritt, 27, had two undergraduate degrees from Penn State, one in biochemistry and molecular biology from 2003, and another in civil engineering from 2006.

He grew up on a small farm just outside the central Pennsylvania borough of Bellefonte, where his father, Michael, raised steer and sheep.

His career goal was to be a civil engineer, and he talked of getting into environmental work after school.

"He liked to work on machinery, take a lot of stuff apart and fixed it," said the victim's grandfather Thomas Herbstritt, 77, of St. Marys. "He was a studious kid."

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Rachael Hill

Hill was a freshman studying biology at Virginia Tech after graduating from Grove Avenue Christian School in Henrico County.

Hill, an only child, was popular and funny, had a penchant for shoes, and was competitive on the volleyball court.

"Rachael was a very bright, articulate, intelligent, beautiful, confident, poised young woman. She had a tremendous future in front of her," said Clay Fogler, administrator for the Grove Avenue school. "Obviously, the Lord had other plans for her."

Her father, Guy Hill, said the family was too distraught to talk about Hill on Tuesday, but relatives were planning to have memorial events later in the week. "We just need some time here," he said tearfully.

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Emily Jane Hilscher

Hilscher, a freshman majoring in animal and poultry sciences, was known around her hometown as an animal lover.

"She worked at a veterinarian's office and cared about them her whole life," said Rappahannock County Administrator John W. McCarthy, a family friend.

Hilscher, 19, of Woodville, was a freshman majoring in animal and poultry sciences. She lived on the same dorm floor as victim Ryan Clark, McCarthy said.

A friend, Will Nachless, also 19, said Hilscher "was always very friendly. Before I even knew her, I thought she was very outgoing, friendly and helpful, and she was great in chemistry."

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Jarrett Lee Lane

Lane, 22, was a senior civil engineering student who was valedictorian of his high school class in tiny Narrows, Va., just 30 miles from Virginia Tech.

His high school put up a memorial to Lane that included pictures, musical instruments and his athletic jerseys.

Lane played the trombone, ran track, and played football and basketball at Narrows High School. "We're just kind of binding together as a family," Principal Robert Stump said.

Lane's brother-in-law Daniel Farrell called Lane fun-loving and "full of spirit."

"He had a caring heart and was a friend to everyone he met," Farrell said. "We are leaning on God's grace in these trying hours."

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Matthew J. La Porte

La Porte, 20, a freshman from Dumont, N.J., was attending Virginia Tech on an Air Force ROTC scholarship and belonged to the school's Corps of Cadets.

La Porte, who was considering majoring in political science, was a gradate of the Carson Long Military Institute in New Bloomfield, Pa. He credited the academy with turning his life around.

"I know that Carson Long was my second chance," he said during a 2005 graduation speech that was printed in the school yearbook.

On Tuesday, the school posted a memorial photograph of La Porte in his school uniform on its Web site.

"Matthew was an exemplary student at Carson Long whose love of music and fellow cadets were an inspiration to all on campus," the school said in a statement.

According to his profile on a music Web site, La Porte's favorite artists were Meshuggah, Metallica, Soundgarden, Creed and Live.

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Liviu Librescu

Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer, was known for his research, but his son said the Holocaust survivor will be remembered as a hero for protecting students as the gunman tried to enter his classroom.

Librescu taught at Virginia Tech for 20 years and had an international reputation for his work in aeronautical engineering.

"His research has enabled better aircraft, superior composite materials, and more robust aerospace structures," said Ishwar K. Puri, the head of the engineering science and mechanics department.

After surviving the Nazi killings, Librescu escaped from Communist Romania and made his way to the United States before he was killed in Monday's massacre, which coincided with Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Librescu's son, Joe, said his father's students sent e-mails detailing how the professor saved their lives by blocking the doorway of his classroom from the approaching gunman before Librescu was fatally shot.

"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Librescu's son, Joe Librescu, said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv. "Students started opening windows and jumping out."

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G.V. Loganathan

Loganathan was born in the southern Indian city of Chennai and had been a civil and environmental engineering professor at Virginia Tech since 1982.

Loganathan, 51, won several awards for excellence in teaching, had served on the faculty senate and was an adviser to about 75 undergraduate students.

"We all feel like we have had an electric shock. We do not know what to do," his brother G.V. Palanivel told the NDTV news channel from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. "He has been a driving force for all of us, the guiding force."

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Daniel O'Neil

O'Neil, 22, was a graduate student in engineering and played guitar and wrote his own songs, which he posted on a Web site, http://www.residenthippy.com.

Friend Steve Craveiro described him as smart, responsible and a hard worker, someone who never got into trouble.

"He would come home from school over the summer and talk about projects, about building bridges and stuff like that," Craveiro said. "He loved his family. He was pretty much destined to be extremely successful. He just didn't deserve to have happen what happened."

O'Neil graduated in 2002 from Lincoln High School in Rhode Island and graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., before heading to Virginia Tech, where he was also a teaching assistant, Craveiro said.

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Juan Ramon Ortiz

Ortiz, 26, who was from Puerto Rico, was teaching a class as part of his graduate program in civil engineering at Virginia Tech.

The family's neighbors in the San Juan suburb of Bayamon remembered Ortiz as a quiet, dedicated son who decorated his parents' one-story concrete house each Christmas and played in a salsa band with his father on weekends.

"He was an extraordinary son, what any father would have wanted," said Ortiz's father, also named Juan Ramon Ortiz.

Marilys Alvarez, 22, heard Ortiz's mother scream from the house next door when she learned of her son's death. Alvarez said she had wanted to study in the United States, but was now reconsidering.

"Here the violence is bad, but you don't see that," she said. "It's really sad. You can't go anywhere now."

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Mary Karen Read

Read was born in South Korea into an Air Force family and lived in Texas and California before settling in the northern Virginia suburb of Annandale.

Read, 19, considered a handful of colleges, including nearby George Mason University, before choosing Virginia Tech. It was a popular destination among her Annandale High School classmates, according to her aunt Karen Kuppinger.

She had yet to declare a major.

"I think she wanted to try to spread her wings," said Kuppinger, of Rochester, N.Y.

Kuppinger said her niece had struggled adjusting to Tech's sprawling 2,600-acre campus. But she had recently begun making friends and looking into a sorority.

Kuppinger said the family started calling Read as news reports surfaced.

"After three or four hours passed and she hadn't picked up her cell phone or answered her e-mail ... we did get concerned," Kuppinger said. "We honestly thought she would pop up."

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Associated Press writers Zinie Chen Sampson, Dionne Walker and Dena Potter in Richmond, Va., Vicki Smith in Blacksburg, Va., Leslie Josephs in Lima, Peru, Matt Moore in Frankfurt, Germany, Laura Candelas in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Rob Gillies in Toronto.

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