- (Photo: AP / Evan Vucci)
- (Photo: AP / Charles Dharapak)
- (Photo: AP / The Roanoke Times, Sam Dean)
It was a day of mourning and a day of sadness for thousands at Virginia Tech and the rest of the nation on Tuesday.
One day after university student Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old senior, shot 32 people dead before turning the gun on himself, President George Bush flew to the Blacksburg campus for a somber convocation.
"People who have never met you are praying for you," Bush said. "They're praying for your friends who have fallen and who are injured. There's a power in these prayers, a real power. In times like this, we can find comfort in the grace and guidance of a loving God."
Bush offered his condolences to students and relatives of the victims while adding his signature to a makeshift memorial a display of the letters VT (Virginia Tech).
Christian campus groups at the university reacted in shock much like the rest of the nation but responded with constant prayers and made themselves available to other students for support and counseling.
"A lot of the students are just in a state of shock right now," said Chi Alpha Campus Pastor Jon Rice, according to the Assemblies of God News Service. "They really don't know how to respond. I think we'll be seeing a lot more students seeking help as time passes."
Chi Alpha students joined other campus ministries on Tuesday for a combined service in efforts to serve the university students however they can.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship also mobilized students to minister to others, offering their ears and comfort to those still on campus.
"In such times as this, we look for sources of strength to sustain us. And in this moment of loss, you're finding these sources everywhere around you," said Bush.
It was the worst day of violence on a college campus in American history, Bush pointed out. On Monday morning, two shooting attacks, more than two hours apart, claimed the lives of two people first at a dormitory and 30 other lives excluding the gunman at an engineering building.
Cho's classmates identified him as "the question mark kid," saying he sat in the back of the room and offered little response. Cho had written a question mark on a sign-in sheet where other students had written their names.
"He was very quiet, always by himself," neighbor Abdul Shash said, according to The Associated Press.
Classmates from the gunman's playwriting class had a more chilling picture of Cho. His plays were violence-drenched with one involving attacks with a chainsaw and another about students fantasizing about stalking and killing a teacher who sexually molested them.
"Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be," said Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, according to AP. "But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."
Some speculate the issue of race will garner media attention because the gunman was a person of color an immigrant from South Korea.
"If the gunman were White, his racial identity would go virtually unnoticed and unmentioned. However, because he was a person of color, much will probably be made of his racial identity," said C.N. Le, director of Asian American Studies Certificate Program, on his blog on Tuesday.
Tamara K. Nopper, an Asian American woman in Philadelphia, said on a blog that she is "keenly aware that Asians are about to become a popular media topic if not the victims of physical backlash."
Many reports also predict much policy debate over gun control, as Bush also acknowledged.
But Bush made clear that "now is not the time to do the debate" until after people are helped to get over their grieving.
And on this terrible day of mourning, it's hard to imagine that a time will come when life at Virginia Tech will return to normal. But such a day will come," said Bush.
"May God bless and keep the souls of the lost. And may His love touch all those who suffer and grieve.