tragic news of Virginia Tech shootings

[update 4/17 8:17am] The media feeding frenzy is all over this story, rehashing the same sad drama. I’ll refer you to these others for the latest:

As a Virginia Tech graduate (1988) and alumni, this morning’s shootings is extra sad and tragic. The most detailed news coverage is via the USA Today blog and The Roanoke Times reports at least 22 killed in shootings @ 12:58pm, and numbers are growing [latest count is 33, including the gunman]:

The mass shooting is the nation’s worst on any school or college campus, according to Catherine Bath, executive director of Security on Campus Inc., a non-profit group that tracks school shootings.

“There is no national precedent for this,” Bath said.

“This is a Columbine-type situation,” Bath said, referring to a shooting at a Colorado high school that left 12 students and a teacher dead in 1999.

Live breaking news coverage being provided at WSLS-TV. CNN i-Report has chilling raw footage via Jamal Albarghouti’s cell phone. Wikipedia has collaborative live updates under 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. Or, listen to police scanner from the New River Valley, which includes Blacksburg.

Please pray… the worst campus massacre in American history… not the kind of notoriety any school wants. the Virginia Tech’s website is overloaded.

I’m scheduled to preach this coming Sunday. I’ll have to pray and write up a new message and not recycle, because we’re all asking the question: “why.” I already have Google searches coming here from “Why the shootings at Virginia Tech?” (cf. Desiring God reposted 21 Ways to Minister to Those Who Are Suffering; Tim Keller’s message at the 9/11 remembrance service)

[update 5:00pm] 1 witness claims that gunmen was “Asian man in his twenties. Maroon hat. Black leather jacket.” View LiveLeak video of phone interview with witness Derek O’Dell. [cf. PajamasMedia] Dennis Hong’s webcam captures shooting scene. Copies of Virginia Tech email announcements posted by hkleo_da — essential contact info:

Students, faculty, and staff who may have any information related to the incident at West Amber Johnston Hall and Norris Hall are encouraged to go to the Blacksburg Police Department to make statements, or call 540-231-TIPP (8477), or 231-6411

Parents with concerns are asked to call the Dean of Students Office at 540-231-3787.

It’s been difficult to find first-hand accounts from Virginia Tech bloggers or from Blacksburg, which is one of the most wired localities in the country. Cybersoc.com did find a handful of bloggers who are blogging on (or near) campus. Also see Save and rather scared… and Madness on Campus. Best updated up-close news is being done by student journalists at Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Times.

Washington Post hosted a live chat (transcripts online) with Anthony Della Calce, executive editor of Planet Blacksburg, a news Web site run by Virginia Tech students, discusses what things are like on campus in the wake of today’s shooting. Other Planet Blacksburg articles: The Senseless Violence Began in West Ambler, Witnesses Inside Norris Hall Speak, and the on-going updated Virginia Tech is Devastated by the Worst College School Shooting in U.S. History.

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24 Responses

  1. There are rumors going around that the shooter was Asian. Please, no.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,266310,00.html

    Police were apparantly putting under cuffs Asian males. See:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/portlet/article/html/render_gallery.jsp?articleId=5679241&siteId=568&startImage=1

  2. Les says:

    A bad arrest. The wrong person. Sorry…

  3. e cho says:

    DJ, this indeed is incredibly tragic news. the first thing i read this morning was that there was a shooting and one person had died. and from there, the story just got worse and worse. peace to all involved.

  4. azileretsis says:

    Senseless is one word. Tragic and broken are others. JMU alums weep with VT alums tonight.

  5. Andrew says:

    What a senseless tragedy … my prayers are with you from the other side of the world in New Zealand.

  6. My fellow asian americans are about to find out how our muslim american brothers felt after 9-11.

  7. …albeit to a much smaller scale.

  8. Wayne Park says:

    DJ, my wife Ash is VTech grad. This hit close to home for us too. It’s discolored our day and just made everything grey, even tho we are 3000 miles away. Being involved in campus ministry right now, we too are somewhat frightened for our students and even for ourselves…

  9. Janet says:

    Hi, DJ. Thanks for putting so much info together. Virginia Tech was on the radio here in France this morning. The tragedy was first brought to our attention yesterday by a colleague in Germany who was watching CNN. My first reaction: “At Virginia Tech?!?” As the CT said, hard to believe on “our cozy campus”. Praying for comfort for those hurt and for wisdom and compassion for those able to help firsthand.

  10. stranger from HK says:

    just to inform you that YAHOO is broadcasting the press conference of your school.
    You may get more information at US yahoo.
    http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/free;_ylt=AuWj4BglsTvJMaCA6DkEgMis0NUE?ch=77808&cl=93596

    May the force be with you all.
    I am just a stranger from HKSAR …You dont know me at all in fact.

    Stranger from HK

  11. LT says:

    thanks for always putting together the most informative posts. you got many sides covered. as of tuesday morning, the shooter looks to be an asian male who was also a student. this may shake up the asian american community more than we realize. some are already asking what pushes these guys over the edge and are fearing that this may spark those on the edge now. this will require a very thoughtful response from aa spiritual leaders. keller’s 9/11 message is just so eloquently put.

  12. gar says:

    The latest updates identify the shooter as a Cho Seung-Hui, a South Korean senior student in VT’s English department.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2003669403_shoot17.html

    I can already smell the racism and xenophobic comments brewing.

  13. djchuang says:

    Thanks for the comments so far, I’m certainly sensitized to the racialized issues at hand, now that we know the killer is Korean American. Essentially, being an English major, he’s one of “us” — a next generation English-speaking Asian American.

    5 days from now, I’ll be guest preaching at a church comprised of mostly next generation Asian Americans, located right in Northern Virginia. Same state, next county. We all need a word of comfort and hope, and God’s Word points us to where that can be found, and it will take more time than a 30-minute sermon for God’s grace to work its way down into the depths of our soul and being.

    Plus, I think being who we are as next-gen Asian Americans, we need something more than a generic Gospel — we need a contextualized Gospel. The Gospel has to and can speak into our Asian American experience.

    So, thinking out loud on my sermon preparation, it’s as much an emotional preparation as a spiritual one. I have to be honest and vulnerable, to say what I don’t know, to say that I have a hard time expressing my emotions and pains, personally and culturally, to let down my “save face” traditions, to weep with those who weep. I want to call out that life is more than suffering only, but life is also to be celebrated. I want to say that we have to get past formalities and relate more deeply with one another, the marginalized and the loners, the achievers and have-it-togethers too. I want to confess that the church has fallen short and hasn’t lived out the Gospel with winsome grace and love — our in-fighting and hypocrisy has turned a lot of people off. God help us all.

  14. gar says:

    Yahoo has put an article profiling some of the victims:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070417/ap_on_re_us/virginia_tech_victim_vignettes;_ylt=AtMZ.68moQxQF6w07betTeis0NUE

    My prayers are with them and their families.

  15. joe says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts outloud DJ. I’m not sure if Asian Americans (and especially Korean Americans like myself) are supposed to have some special insight or unique condolences. I’m still just shocked and speechless. But I’m sure you’ll find the right words to say on Sunday…

  16. djchuang says:

    Joe, thanks for your encouragement. I don’t think we have any particularly special insight or condolences, per se. I do think that we as Asian Americans do have something to say, even if they are the same words that echo the same sentiments of grief and sorrow, a few words are more meaningful than absence and silence. And, I do think the collective side of our Asian-ness feels the shame and guilt of our people being blemished by one bad apple.

    I was at a candle light vigil tonight (Wednesday night), and heard that this incident has been particularly difficult for a Korean Dad. Now that Dad didn’t know anyone directly associated with the tragedy, but the knowledge that the person who committed such atrocities was Korean pains him. He’s wondering if he should go and apologize to the non-Koreans. In my exposure to racial reconciliation, there’s a concept of identificational repentance that may be at play here.

  17. hi DJ,
    Your mention of identificational repentance got me thinking, and I posted an entry. please let me know if I misrepresented your line of thinking, and I will make amends. I have a different take as regards identificational repentance, and the tone i strove for was respectful disagreement. Hopefully it comes across.
    If you’re interested, CT has an interesting article on how Campus Crusade tried to reach out to Cho. Read it here

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/aprilweb-only/116-31.0.html

  18. djchuang says:

    Emergingtruth,

    Thanks for letting me know of your post. I don’t mind your difference of opinion, and I do admit to my over-extension for using identificational repentance with this recent tragedy.

    Back to the concept of identificational repentance, which I think does have some emotional-healing value to some people, particularly the in-touch-with-emotions people like myself. What “good” does it do for the whole might be debated, but that’s okay.

    As for attempts to reach out, I’d imagine that typical outreach of inviting people to attend a small group or an event won’t cut it. There’s a whole different approach to reaching out to the marginalized, wounded, and hurting, that most ministries don’t know how to do. I’ll confess I don’t know how to do it myself.

    And in the case of those who need psychiatric care, it’s more up to the family support network to encourage and support mental health care. If that’s absent or too shameful, we’ll all suffer for it.

  19. barry says:

    news of the event prompted a lot of introspection on my part because i *could* relate in some degree – my understanding is that cho seung-hui (i note he never took an anglicized name) was made fun of and otherwise ostracized by a predominantly white middle class community when his family emigrated to the US because of his poor speech. while my circumstances were a little different, (but i do even have a single older sister) i was also very aware of not being like anyone else and not fitting in, and i carried a lot of anger at that age. a couple of my high school teachers were genuinely concerned that i might have done something drastic. while i’ve gotten past that and come a long way, twenty years later i still sometimes project my expectation of being unaccepted onto others (including god) in certain situations. while my case might be extreme, i’m not so sure that it is.

    cho seung hui needed help. but i’m not so sure that help was available for him in that circumstance – even if he could have acknowledged the fact that he needed it. i suspect the clash of cultures affected cho affected him in a way that the typical counselor doesn’t have experience with. my best friend back home is a child psychiatrist, and he occasionally picks my brain when he has as an identiifed patient an asian child or adolescent. i think my ability to articulate the basic differences in culture (the interdependence and fixation on relational structure and rules/expectations, the shame-based parenting style, etc.) have given him insight he might have never gotten elsewhere and hopefully made him more effective in treating these patients (although nowadays he does very little therapy and is reduced to medicating most of his patients).

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