Beneath Horrid Event At Virginia Tech May Be, As Usual, Deep Spiritual Current
As always, there was the spiritual aspect.
There was the student who turned over two or three desks and shielded himself behind them as the Virginia Tech gunman fired at his class. The student prayed and survived and told national television audiences -- you've seen him -- that he made it "by the Grace of God."
It was a term we heard, on this campus, where so many good seem to attend, time and again: by the Grace of God. This is of course where a student named Cho Seung Hui shot and killed 32 fellow students Monday, and then himself.
There were the profiles in courage. There was the other young man who had been cowering as shots rang out but who mustered the strength to get up and barricade a door -- saving 11 lives.
There was the elderly professor, a Holocaust survivor, who took bullets -- who acted as a human shield -- as his students escaped through a window. We recall the words of Jesus: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
And, yes, there was the spiritual underside, a young man in urgent need of deliverance.
There it was on TV: the glazed darkness in his eyes.
Too often, we obscure spiritual aspects with psychology.
The signs of spiritual oppression were evident.
"He was always really, really quiet and kind of weird, keeping to himself all the time,” a room-mate told The New York Times. “Just of anti-social, didn’t talk to anybody. I tried to make conversation with him in August or so and he would just give one word answers and not try and carry on the conversation.” He said it was a creepy quietness. “I would notice a lot of times, I would come in the room and he would kind of be sitting at his desk, just staring at nothing,” he said.
It is said that he was a man "obsessed." Over and again, he played a song, "Shine," from an alternative rock grunge group called Collective Soul, according to room-mates (who barely spoke with him). The lyrics may reflect Cho Seung Hui's spiritual hunger, his search, his desperation:
Give me a word
Give me a sign
Show me where to look
Tell what will I find ( will I find )
Lay me on the ground
Fly me in the sky
Show me where to look
Tell me what will I find ( will I find )
It is almost a Gospel tune and is on an album called "Hints, Allegations, and Things Unsaid."
On Cho's arm was
found the name "Ismael
Ax." Ismael is another version of the Hebrew name Yishma'el, meaning "God will
And then there are the deeper mysteries or potential ones.
Virginia Tech is located in Blacksburg, Virginia, slightly northeast of an earlier frontier settlement dating from 1748 called Draper's Meadow, the site of the infamous "Draper's Meadow Massacre" of 1755, whereby Shawnees attacked settlers. Burial sites dot the area.
Do spirits linger?
Blacksburg was also hometown to one of history's most notorious serial killers, Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to involvement in hundreds of murders (if his confessions could be believed). Can we draw lines here? Are there really spiritual atmospheres?
Whatever the case, there is strangeness.
But above that, there is the shining light of those courageous kids.
Hours after witnessing one of the most horrendous events in American annals, they were there bravely telling what happened, bravely testifying to the Grace of God.
There were prayer circles. There was thanksgiving for those who were saved. Already, students on campus have announced that they have forgiven the killer. Was he "schizophrenic"? Or possessed?
It was a watershed day, and the best question was posed by a mother whose daughter was in the hall at the time of the killings.
"She saw the shooter and officers
running by, heard the gunfire, and was ordered to leave her classroom and head
for shelter outside the building," wrote this viewer. "She said she was the only
student that did not have a car to get into to leave the parking lot as
instructed. As she was trying to find shelter in the open lot amidst chaos she
told me she felt she was going to die. My immediate response to her was: 'Were
We can all ask ourselves that -- are we ready? -- and whether, like that professor, whose name was Liviu Librescu, we would lay down our lives.
[see also: Killing: a hint of coming maelstrom, The victims, and Nobody knew him]
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