Virginia Tech: One Year Later

Students search for routine, but experience radical life change.

  • by Sarah Freyermuth
Photo courtesy Isaac Barnes

Sara Klingensmith's first day back at Virginia Tech was refreshingly ordinary. "It felt good to be back and see friends and have things be normal," says the 21-year-old senior.

Although the April 2007 shooting deaths of 27 students and five faculty members were not far from her mind, Sara chose to focus on the freshness of the new school year and on establishing a familiar routine.

"I almost had forgotten how to be a student because it felt like 10 years since I had been there."

For Sara, part of being a student has meant serving as a leader with Cru at Virginia Tech. Over the past few years, she has led Bible studies, helped organize campus events, and mentored women.

This year, while balancing those responsibilities with her own grief, Sara has learned deep lessons about dependence.

"It's been challenging," she admits, "because a lot of times I have to say, 'I have no idea what I'm supposed to do right now, so God, it's totally in Your hands.'"

But this year has also been different because of an increase in students' responsiveness to the gospel. By the midpoint of the fall semester, 11 students prayed and received Christ as their Savior through conversations alone, a marked increase from fall semester the year before. An additional 42 decisions for Christ came through Tech's evangelistic Web site, Gobbletalk.com.

"The whole world was praying for Virginia Tech after April, and I think we are seeing the results of that," says Jeff Highfield, Virginia Tech's Cru director. "The students are really committed to reaching the campus and ultimately the world."

Sara has also noticed other signs of God working in students' hearts.

"The number of people involved with Bible studies is the highest it's ever been," she says. "And, for our monthly 24-hour prayer events, every hour has been filled with at least one person. Even the 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. slots, which are normally hard to fill."

In October, shortly before the six-month anniversary of the tragedy, world-renowned Christian author and speaker Ravi Zacharias addressed the Virginia Tech community on "Finding Answers Amid Life's Greatest Losses." More than 2,500 students and faculty attended the first night.

"I feel like because of the tragedy, we see the necessity [to tell others about Christ]," says Sara. "We know anything could happen tomorrow because we've seen it."

For her and the other Cru students at Virginia Tech, the semester has been anything but ordinary.

See additional coverage from the perspective of Faculty Commons, the faculty ministry of Cru.