"April is the cruellest month." When T. S. Eliot penned that opening line to "The Waste Land" in 1921, he had no idea how it would resound in modern America. Oklahoma City, Columbine High School, and Virginia Techour calendars mark all three within a span of five days, a week soaked in grief.
"As a youth minister, you anticipate weddings, not funerals," said Matt Rogers of New Life Christian Fellowship (NLCF), a Christian community that meets in the Student Center at Virginia Tech. "We have no playbook for something like this."
I spoke at NLCF two weeks after the tragedy, accompanied by the Ruegsegger family, whose daughter Kacey survived gunshot wounds at Columbine High School eight years ago. "Very few people know what you're going through," Kacey told the students gathered for the somber service. "We've been there."
The news media portrayed yet another mass killing on a U.S. campus. What greeted the visitor, though, was an overwhelming display of national solidarity. Banners and posters hung in many school buildings, covered with tens of thousands of handwritten messages of support. And a cluster of spontaneous memorials appeared around campus. Each day, visitors filed past the mounds of mementoesa baseball, a Starbucks cup, a teddy bear, a favorite novelthat gave individuality to the 33 who'd died.
Spring arrived late in western Virginia. As April faded into May, redbud and wild dogwood trees dotted the surrounding hills. Tulips and daffodils set off the gray stone university buildings. "It's usually such a happy time," mused one student. "We pack our books and stereos and head home, some of us with diplomas. This year, a gray haze hangs over everything."
Before departing, many students paid one last visit to Norris Hall, blocked off with a green fence and yellow police tape. Where they used to attend classes, state patrolmen now stood guard.
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Our earlier coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings includes:
Asking Why | Christian fellowship helps survivors of the Virginia Tech shootings deal with larger issues. (April 23, 2007)
Peace in a World of Massacre | What Jesus calls us to when we're most frightened. (April 17, 2007)
Weblog has commentary and links to other news about Virginia Tech.
Christianity Today articles on the shooting at Columbine High School include:
Editorial: The Long Road After Littleton | There are no quick fixes for our culture of violence, but that's no excuse for doing nothing. (June 14, 1999)
Videos of Hate: Columbine killers harbored anti-Christian prejudice | Columbine killers harbored anti-Christian prejudice. (February 7, 2000)
Marketing Martyrdom to Teens | Merchandisers not only are banking on teenagers believing in God, but also on their desire to buy the T-shirt, do the Bible study, and wear the bracelet. (December 6, 1999)
Pop Culture: Elegy for a Jesus Freak | "These are the ultimate Jesus Freaksthe people who are willing to die for their faith." (December 6, 1999)
Cassie Said Yes, They Said No | The mainstream press unquestioningly accepted Salon.com's flimsy debunking of the Columbine confession. (November 1, 1999)
'Do You Believe in God?' | Columbine and the stirring of America's soul. (October 4, 1999)
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