Local athlete saved by football meeting

Brandon Barden said Monday that he is thankful he's a football player. The Lincoln County graduate - an early enrollee at Virginia Tech this winter - was attending an early team meeting and avoided the shooting rampage that happened near his dorm.

"It's really all hard to believe," Mr. Barden said in a telephone interview with The Chronicle. "I remember Columbine growing up, and now this. It's going to take a while for all of this to settle in."

Mr. Barden left his Ambler Johnston East dormitory Monday morning at 6:45 for a Virginia Tech football team meeting.

"We had a position group meeting at 7 with all the other receivers," Mr. Barden said.

"So I wasn't around at 7:15 or 7:30 or so when they said the first shooting all happened. It's a good thing I had to get up and go to that. Thank goodness I had that meeting. I didn't want to be up and around when all of that was happening."

Mr. Barden said the first of the two shootings of the day happened about 50 yards from his dormitory room.

"All of that stuff happened at Ambler Johnston West," Mr. Barden said. "I'm on Ambler Johnston East. They are separated, but the two sides are connected. It would probably take me about 30 seconds to get over there from where I stay.

"That's the scary part. I go up that elevator to that part of the Ambler Johnston area all the time. I've got friends that all live over there."

Mr. Barden said he didn't know anyone among those killed or injured. He did not believe any of his Virginia Tech teammates were among those injured.

He went from his team meeting to study hall, then to his first class of the day at 9 a.m. He took a test in geology and then returned to his dormitory.

Mr. Barden said he's received about 30 to 40 calls to his cell phone and about 40 to 50 text messages from family and friends making sure he's all right.

The Lincoln County graduate enrolled early at Virginia Tech after leading the Red Devils to the state championships in December.

Best friend and current Lincoln County senior Alex Bradford was the first to call.

"Alex called me, and when he did it was hard getting a signal out because everyone on campus was using their cell phones," he said.

"I called him back in about 10 minutes, and he was telling me everything that was going on at about the same time I was finding it out on my own."

Classes were cancelled Monday and today at the school.

"We're all just hanging out right now playing video games," he said. "This was just a huge event. We are all really just trying to figure out what happened by watching CNN and the news right now."

Reach Jeff Sentell at 706-823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.