Apr 24, 2007

Outreach: Liberty students find impact at Virginia Tech

by Amy Field, Asst. News Editor
Liberty’s responses to the tragedy at Virginia Tech have taken many different forms. At least two student-led vigils were held at the Spirit Rock in addition to the memorial service for Virginia Tech that was hosted by Thomas Road Baptist Church on Thursday.

However, a number of Liberty students left the comfort of Lynchburg and made the 91-mile drive to a hurting Blacksburg to show their support for the community. Students loaded up cars with friends and took “road trips,” going with the intention of not just being there to see the aftermath of the tragedy but to minister to the hurting students there.

Freshman Devin Olson went with two of his friends and visited Virginia Tech the day after the shootings to offer help and support to those who needed it.

“I get the sense that a lot of people are still wondering how to respond to a tragedy like this,” Olson said. “And of course everyone should offer up their prayers, but they have no idea … what kind of an impact they can have, just going down there and wrapping their arms around everyone who needs it and asking, ‘Can I pray with you?’” While there, he and his friends met families and friends of victims, who were there to remember their loved ones.

“One of the most amazing experiences for us (was) when we decided to go over to the temporary grief counseling center Tech set up,” Olson said.

“People kept telling us, ‘Thank you so much for coming down here.’”

Olson, a journalism major, filmed parts of his trip. When he returned to Liberty, he edited the footage and uploaded the video to YouTube.

“Most of it was filmed during the convocation the university held at 2:15 on Tuesday, where President Bush and Governor Kaine spoke, along with (Virginia Tech) university officials,” Olson said. His tribute to Virginia Tech can be found at http://www.you-tube.com/watch?v=GckznXjb_-s. He set the video to play along to Third Day’s song “Cry Out To Jesus.”

“The song seemed to match the tragedy in every way possible,” Olson said. “The lyrics are really telling people what they need to hear – that there's an infinite God who hears us when we need Him most.”

Hannah Ellenburg, a sophomore from South Carolina, also decided to go with a group of students to Virginia Tech. They left for Blacksburg on Friday afternoon and spent about five hours on the campus.

“I went because I knew that there was nothing I could do for the people of Virginia Tech except pray,” said Ellenburg. When she and her friends reached Blacksburg, they prayed together before going to the memorials that were set up for the victims and those who mourned them.

“(We) prayed for our hearts to be filled with compassion and spiritual understanding,” she said.
Arriving at the memorials, they found a heartbreaking sight of individuals remembering those who died. “As I watched them cry, hug each other and go from one memorial tent to another, all I could think about was how they were like ‘sheep without a shepherd,’” Ellenburg said.

Walking down to look at the memorials, Ellenburg found walls set up that individuals could write personal messages to the ones they lost.

“One read, ‘Ryan, thanks for protecting my son,’” Ellenburg said.

“It isn't every day that one of the most horrific crimes in history happens a few miles down the road from you,” Olson said.

“I really think it's our duty as Christians, and it should be natural (for) us to want to help out in whatever way we can.”

Contact Amy Field at afield@liberty.edu.
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