Hamilton: "I'm Still in Disbelief"

Justin Hamilton is a bright young man who attended Virginia Tech and got his degree. His smarts are valued by the Browns who drafted him at safety despite only one year's experience at the position. As bright as he is, however, not even Justin Hamilton can understand the madness which took place Monday in halls where he used to walk...

Browns safety Justin Hamilton is still trying to come to grips with the fact he could easily have been one of the 33 victims of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech April 16.

Hamilton graduated from Virginia Tech in December of 2005, four months before the Browns drafted him in the seventh round last spring. He recalled attending classes in Norris Hall, where 31 people, including the gunman, were killed.

"I had class my sophomore year in spring semester and my junior year in that building," Hamilton said one day after the shootings. "I would have been in that building if I were still a student there.

"I've really been struggling with, 'if I had been there what would I have done? What was it that decided those peoples' fates and why wasn't it me?' I've really struggled with that."

Hamilton said he did not know any of the victims. He said he contacted his former teammates and friends still living in Blacksburg, Va. He was relieved to learn they were not harmed.

"I'm very thankful for that, but that doesn't change the fact so many people lost their lives," Hamilton said. "You would never think something like that would happen on any campus, but especially not in Blacksburg, not at Virginia Tech, because the community and Virginia Tech go hand-in-hand. It's inconceivable. I don't think it will ever be explained."

One student used a cell phone to take a video of the drama as it unfolded outside on the Virginia Tech campus. Hamilton knew exactly where the student was standing. He said he ate at a nearby Burger King two or three times a week while earning a degree in consumer studies.

"There are chills all over my body," Hamilton said. "I've seen through the eyes of that camera. Almost every day of my career, I was in that area. It was like I was watching a normal day on campus except that there were gunshots and S.W.A.T. teams and police forces everywhere.

"To just think we might be hearing the last moments of people's lives -- I could not get out of my mind how that very well could have been me. I just don't understand what is in the plans for each individual. Why I was spared and those people weren't really bothers me. I'm still in disbelief."

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