The 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting
“Don’t you have a son at Virginia Tech?” one of my coworkers asked me.
“I have two there,” I told her. “Why?”
“There’s been a shooting at Virginia Tech and it sounds bad.”
I’m sure you know what I did. I called my boys and, when I didn’t get an answer, I called my husband.
Dave reminded me that what was happening was out of our control and the best – and most important – thing we could do was pray.
For over two hours, we tried to reach our guys. The phone lines were jammed (of course); other times there was just no answer. Our secretary kept punching in their phone numbers from her desk as I continued to do my job. (Thank you, Jean.)
I prayed. I asked God to keep my sons safe; I asked Him to give them courage if they were afraid; I asked Him to give them protection if they were in harm’s way. I asked, above all, that the name of Jesus would be known on this day, no matter what the outcome would be. I didn’t need to ask God to be with them or with me. He was already Present. I knew this, because I felt His presence with me.
There was nothing else I could do except pray and leave it to God, Who already knew.
It sounds easy to say that now, so many years later. Was it easy at the time? Nope.
My stomach kept wanting to curl into a knot. My mind was full-speed ahead, thinking What if?! I had to constantly choose to remain focused at my job. I had to keep reminding myself of this:
God does not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
When I stopped and thought about what might happen or what might already have happened, I knew there was nothing I could do at the moment but trust God to give me peace. I knew that, even though I didn’t know, there was one thing on which I could rest: either Jesus was with them, or they were with Jesus.
Updates from co-workers kept coming to me: the school was in lock-down; the shooter was dead; there were many casualties; students and professors were dead.
Where were my boys?!
In time, we reached son number one. Later we roused son number two, who had decided to skip class that morning and sleep in. (Do tell.) Neither one was in harm’s way, although as older son walked across campus, he heard the gunshots and learned later that each building through which he walked was locked down just moments after he exited the building. His concern was for the students for whom he was responsible as an RA. As it turned out, we knew more about what was happening on campus than he did at the moment. He didn’t understand my concern, because he thought the turmoil was about the two students killed that morning; he didn’t know that students were lying wounded and bleeding in buildings on campus.
The Twin Towers
Six years earlier, on the morning of the 9-11 attack on the twin towers, I received phone calls from friends and neighbors. At that time, we had six children in four schools, and I couldn’t wait for them to get home from school so I could hug them tightly. When death is all around us, it makes us want to hold our kids more tightly, to tell them how much we love them (and we should), and to keep them safe with us (we shouldn’t). My kids came home from school that day and shrugged off my hugs because, to them, it was just another ordinary day. They didn’t understand the emotions parents faced that day because they felt no fear. (Thank you teachers and administrators.)
As moms, we want to hold our kids tightly. That is the most natural thing in the world for a mother to do. Really, we should be letting them go. They don’t belong to us – and they never did.
It’s true that no matter how old they become or where they live, they will always be our children. They are a gift, and not a right, from God.
That is why we need to begin releasing them the day they are born.
Hold them loosely, and remember that no matter how much we treasure the gift, we need to remember and recognize the Giver.
The Temptation to Worry
We have been blessed. Other parents had children who never came home again. Other parents still remember this day with sorrow, while I remember with gratitude – and prayers for the families of those who mourn as well as the family of the perpetrator of this crime. At the same time, we know it could happen to us.
When the temptation comes to worry, I pray. I can’t be with my kids, but God is with them no matter where they go or what they do. Even though I don’t know what’s happening, He does. Like incense before the Lord, my prayers keep ascending to the throne of Grace.
There is nothing I can do that matters more. No matter how many miles they are from us, our prayers can cover them. Our kids are grown and mostly gone. They travel thousands of miles each year by plane, motorcycle, and car. One of them has been to countries that I didn’t even know existed. (At this writing, he’s now in Rawanda .) Others have been in situations which could have been dangerous. Each time when I’m praying a kid to a foreign country or praying them home, I remember.
Worry accomplishes nothing; it only increases my fear. Prayer leaves my kids and my cares at the Throne.
He already knows.
No matter where our children go or what happens, He is already there.