Recent Liberty transfer deals with loss of her Virginia Tech peer

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Pair were part of a weekly Campus Crusade Bible study
By Ashly McGlone
LYNCHBURG, Va. — When freshman Ashley Minsker was released a few minutes early from her first class on the morning of April 16, she received a phone call that would change everything. Minsker didn't know that within a matter of hours she would find out that the school she called home a mere four months ago had become the scene of the "worst mass shooting in U.S. history." 

It was 9:30 a.m. when Virginia Tech freshman Sarah Horan called Minsker to let her know, without much explanation, that she had been evacuated from her dorm into a lounge area. About 90 minutes later Minsker received a second call from Horan.

"You cannot believe what is going on," Horan said.

Horan went on to say that two people had been shot in the West Ambler Johnston dormitory, on the same hall and floor Minsker had lived with Horan. Minsker had transferred to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. from Virginia Tech University in January.

Due to an inundation of phone calls in and out of Virginia Tech, phone lines experienced difficulties, leaving Minsker with text messaging as the primary means of contact with friends.

"The day seemed to keep getting worse as it went on," Minsker said. "The number (of deaths) kept going up and up. It was all so surreal."

The next evening Minsker learned that her friend, Lauren McCain, had fallen victim to the shooter's rampage in Norris Hall. Minsker and McCain had been regular attendees of a weekly all-female Bible study as well as Campus Crusade for Christ meetings on campus. 

Minsker remembers McCain mostly for her joy.

"She was always smiling; always laughing," the Liberty student said. "She truly loved God and was always talking about Him. She was very joyful and encouraging." 

"Cru," as the Campus Crusade ministry is affectionately called, lost four students, including McCain, to the incident. Ten staff members serve more than 500 students who regularly attend their meetings. There is also a blog on the Campus Crusade Web site where students and staff can post regular updates.

Since the shooting, Campus Crusade has hosted various memorial services, prayer meetings and vigils on campus as a means of support.

Minsker admits she's spent time wondering about the 'what ifs.' "I'm definitely thankful that God brought me here [to Liberty]. I had a class in Norris Hall last semester and I could've easily had a class there this semester," she said.

"I keep thinking: what would have happened if I was there? What would I have done? What would I have said?"

Despite the tragedy, Minkser said she thought good could come from the tragedy. She cited the courage of Cassie Bernall during the Columbine shootings eight years.

"Her story brought so many people to Christ," Minsker said. "I think that God's hand is on everything and he obviously allowed this to happen for a reason. We've already seen the entire country come together and offer up prayer. God spared a lot of lives, too, on Monday."


Reaction at other Christian campuses
Many Christian campuses in Southern California were called to a day of prayer in the days following the shooting through e-mails sent out to their student bodies or through posts on their Web sites.

In a letter from the Department of Campus Safety at Biola University, Chief Jerry Powell said "the events at Virginia Tech remind us how fragile life is. At no time can we take for granted safety at Biola."

 The University Counseling Center at Azusa Pacific University released an article urging students to reach out.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to those who are grieving the tragic shootings that took place at Virginia Tech University … In light of the horrific event, the university suggests that you connect with your support system of family and friends."

An e-mail sent out April 17th from Bob Brower, the president of Point Loma Nazarene University, stated, "Today, and throughout the days ahead, let us pray for comfort and strength for those touched by this great loss, and let us pray for the Virginia Tech community as it seeks to care for those at the university and in their extended family."

In response to the mass killing, Minsker said she finds herself frequently quoting Psalm 18:2-3 to friends at Virginia Tech:

"The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies."

"I just really feel like my heart is heavy for the killer's family," Minsker said. "We are remembering and praying for 32 families who lost loved ones, but there are really 33 families in this. There are 33 families who don't have their children coming home."

To find out how you can help, contact "Cru," the Virginia Tech chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ at vtcru.org.

Published, May 2007