My friend, Bobby Pittenger, Jr sent me an email with a report from a friend of his who is part of a campus ministry at Virginia Tech, the site of this week’s tragic mass murder. This report gives a unique perspective on the events at VT and the follow-up ministry that is taking place. I thought my blog readers might appreciate his view from the site of the crime.
Blacksburg, Virginia 4/18/07 11:02pm
Supporters, friends and family,
As I sit to try and write you an update on the past 36 hours, I begin to recognize how mentally and emotionally exhausted I am. It seems like there are both an enormous amount of things to say and reportyet at the same time it feels like silence might very well say it best.
Mondays event is truly as dark and as evil as anything I have known. This is not the way things are supposed to be. Even so, we believe that God can and will take what was meant for evil and turn it for good. We are not thinking that this will happen overnight. Saying that, we appreciate your continued care and concern as we move forward. I dream of the days ahead when men and women from Virginia Tech will point back to 4.16.07 and not only think about death, but also about how that horrible day was the catalyst that pressed them towards a relationship with Jesus Christ.
4.16.07It was a whirlwind. We were in the middle of a staff meeting at our office (at edge of campus) on Monday morning when my VT Campus Director, Doug Rose, began receiving text messages about the shooting in West AJ. We paused the meeting to pray and then all began calling students we are connected to from the West AJ and surrounding dorms to check on their safety. As we were talking to students, we received report of a second shooting. At that point I ended the staff meeting because the sirens and ambulances were blaring constantly down
Main Street and the Emergency Response Intercom was notifying everyone of the presence of a gunman and telling everyone to Remain indoors and stay away from windows.
The ride from the office to my house takes me even closer to where the shootings took place. I was passed by nearly 15 ambulances with sirens and lights blaring. At this point the report was that there were three people shot and my honest thought was that the Ambulances were called on the scene to help look for a gunman on the loose. Little did I know that they would all be very much needed in the moments that followed.I arrived at my house to find the coverage well under way on every major news channel. Throughout the morning, the reports got worse and worse.
One of the most shocking moments for us was when the news channels changed the fatality number from one to 22. We were all sure it was an error.As the news unfolded, including the shooter, the death total ended at 33 with over 15 others wounded.
Our house began to take on the feel of a rescue mission throughout the afternoon with our staff and various students showing up. Julia had plenty of food and drinks for everyone who was up for eating.Perhaps the most memorable thing through the afternoon was the sight of students scanning through Facebook (social internet site) and frantically searching to see that there friends were not among the wounded or killed. Due to the amount of cell phone usage, many circuits were jammed for hours which made the internet the main source of contact for students.
As the day went on, it became clear that none of the students killed were deeply involved with us. We do have a few students that we are working with that did lose a close friend or faculty and many of them lost someone from their same dorm.
At about 5pm I received an email from the Dean of Students whom I work with through an organization known as the VT Campus Ministers Association. He requested help at Squires Student Center because they were opening a room up for students to go if they needed to talk. I went over with another of my staff, Andrew Schwartz. It was not to our surprise that there were not many students seeking out counseling. Most students will tend to start within their network of relationships when seeking help. (That is why we believe so strongly in building relationships at a grassroots level.) Nevertheless, we were happy to show our support for the department of Student Services. Around dinner time, we ordered pizza at the house and everyone agreed to turn off the TV for a little while, which was a great move. We had people over at the house until midnight while other staff spent time on campus with students.The Scene in Blacksburg
I have never experienced anything like this. Every single major news channel currently calls Blacksburg home. CNN, FOX News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBSthey are all here. It is truly a madhouse. There are news trucks, cameras and reporters everywhere. It is hard to go anywhere without getting a microphone put in your face and a reporter asking you questions about Mondays events. President Bush and Governor Kaine were on campus yesterday.I just came from a prayer gathering on the Drill Field (center of campus and yards away from Norris Hall) involving all the various campus ministries. There were literally dozens of camera crews shooting the prayer time. Every time I opened my eyes there was a camera in my face or beneath me at my shoes looking upwards. After our final prayer time (we prayed for four different areas of need) I opened my eyes to see Franklin Graham standing a few feet away. He walked up and asked if he could share a few words to all present.
Police are everywhere. A number of buildings are still yellow taped. Memorials, flowers, notes and candles dominate the main areas of campus that would be filled with college students playing football, soccer and talking on a beautiful day like today.The scene is very much surreal. Like a Hollywood movie is being filmed with all the top news personalities in the world. Though we know this is very much real.We are, and will continue to use our homes as places of refuge where students can remove themselves from the madness of the campus. It seems that our best and clearest conversations with students and each other have occurred around our dinner table or while in the front yard playing with our boys.Students are beginning to leave town and go home since all classes have been cancelled until Monday. With the swarming presence of the media, I tend to think that it could be a good thing for the students to get away for a few days. I dont think they realize that the frenzy of reporters will still be waiting for them on Monday morning when things are supposed to be normal again.
To be honest with you, every Christian ministry that I know of on campus is putting together things to invite people to come to. For the most part, the students that come to those events are students who already know they are interested in God.We desire that God might use us in the coming days to reach men and women that are interested in dialoguing about Christ, yet for one reason or another wont go seek out help. How do we do that? We go to them. Through our current network of relationships we believe that we can reach many students in East and West Ambler Johnston dorm. Please pray for this.
John 16:33 has been a rock for me. In Christ we have peace. In the world we will have trouble. Take heart, He has overcome the world.
How you can help:
- Pray for our daily time with Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 is a good passage to pray through for us. That the comfort we receive from God will be the comfort we pass on to others.
- Pray for our physical rest and comfort. Many of our staff are showing physical signs of stress already.
- Pray for wisdom in the days ahead. God tells us in James if we lack wisdom we are to ask Him for it (1:5). We greatly feel the need for wisdom! Wisdom for when to speak and when to listen. Wisdom for where to extend ourselves for the good of this community.
- Pray our follow up plan for the rest of the semester. We will be seeking to make contact with every person that we have spent time with this year and we are praying that many would come to faith in Christ.
- Pray for continued unity among Christians on campus. Today was a wonderful demonstration of this as we had a joint prayer gathering in the center of Techs Drill Field. (John 17:20-21)