NEW YORK — The killer returned to brandish his weapons one more time and speak, surreally, from the grave.
His eyes seemed heavy-lidded, his voice dull, his words a rambling monotone of bitterness and hate. It may have been Cho Seung-Hui's intention to explain the motivation for the horror he would unleash, but the video that aired Wednesday night on NBC News actually offered a glimpse into his soul.
"You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience," he said into the camera, looking down occasionally to read from his manifesto. "You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people."
By the time the 23-year-old student and South Korea native had videotaped his suicide message, he knew what was to come. He hoped that a stunned and grieving nation would listen, riveted, to his words.
"I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled," he said. "But no, I will no longer run."
"It's not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters. ... I did it for them."
What was he running from? Of whom did he speak? Was it a last cry of help, or a last show of hate? What was Cho thinking when he compared himself to Jesus? What was he thinking when he glared into the camera and addressed a nation that would still be burying its dead?
The sullen loner known as "the question mark kid" by some classmates — because he entered a question mark instead of his name on a class signup sheet one day — left his audience with more questions than answers. Questions about killers, and loners, and delusions of martyrdom.
Incongrously, Cho grinned in some sections of his video. Leaning against a car window, his black baseball cap worn backwards, he almost looked like any normal student.
But then there were the photos — of him grimly pointing two guns at the camera, holding a gun to his temple, wielding a hammer with two hands.
And, always, the invective flowed.
"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," he said. "But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."
The target of his hatred was fellow students at Virginia Tech, where Cho massacred 32 people Monday.
"Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats," he said. "Your golden necklaces weren't enough you snobs. Your trust funds wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything."
Cho, it seems, had nothing.
He had no friends, no normal college life, no reason to live.
Just a death wish.
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And a desire to show the whole world his disturbed heart.