33 killed, 29 injured
in campus shooting

Local and national faith groups are offering support to the Virginia Tech campus community after the deadliest shooting rampage in the nation's history.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BLACKSBURG, Va. | April 16, 2007


A gunman opened fire at Virginia Tech on Monday, killing 32 people and injuring 29 others.

One shooting occurred at the West Ambler Johnston residence hall at 7:15 a.m., where two people were killed and several others were injured, school officials said. The second shooting took place at the Norris Hall academic building around 10 a.m., where additional fatalities occurred, police reported. The gunman was found dead - police said he took his own life - bringing the death toll to 33.

Police said the campus was secure. No motive was given for the shootings. It was not known if the gunman was a student and his identity was not immediately released.

Classes have been canceled for Monday and Tuesday. The school has an enrollment of more than 25,000 students.

"The university is shocked and indeed horrified," university president Charles Steger told a news conference. A convocation service will be held on the campus Tuesday to help the community cope with the tragedy.

Counselors were available to students and staff in the West Ambler Johnston residence hall and in another school building.

A representative from the Baptist Student Center on the edge of the campus said his staff was determining the next best steps for its students in response. He said their facility had been locked down during the incident.

National disaster response agencies, including Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) and Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR), were preparing their responses in the community. Both agencies offered assistance after the 1998 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.

Three members of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team (NRT) were en route to the campus to be a presence and resource to the community.

According to an e-mail from PDA, NRT members have been in contact with Catherine Snyder, Presbyterian campus minister, George Goodman, of the Presbytery of the Peaks and with Alexander Evans, pastor of Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. Evans is also a chaplain with the fire department.

LDR was sending a representative to the area and was also communicating with the local synod.

"At this time, we anticipate that there will be long-term spiritual and emotional needs on the campus, as well as throughout the state and the entire country, as more is learned about the full extent of this tragedy," LDR said in a release.

The Roanoke District of the United Methodist Church was in touch with its local churches. Carole Click, the district's office manager, said the school's Wesley Foundation provided shelter to students.

"Wesley Foundation at Virginia Tech heard about the shooting within minutes after it happened, and immediately went into shutdown mode and provided a shelter for students adjacent to campus," she said. "They have been in touch with all of their active students and can confirm that everyone is safe. They will continue to offer their facilities and staff to anyone in need of their services, for shelter, for use of landline phones or for counseling."

Click added that Blacksburg United Methodist Church is open for prayer and has clergy standing by for "support and encouragement during this crisis. Candles have been lit for each of the confirmed fatalities realizing that the potential exists for additional ones."

Other district churches will offer prayer services and open sanctuary times for residents.

The shooting was the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history, topping the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas at Austin where a gunman killed 16 people. The Columbine High School shootings killed 12 people.

 

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