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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Campus ministry supported her after Virginia Tech shootings

Freshman Becky Ruschman learned late the night of April 16 that her roommate, Mary Read, wasn’t coming home.

“I was talking to someone online on [Instant Messenger], and they told me to check my e-mail,” she said. The message from administrators at Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, told students to “to stay put” in their dorm rooms.


Becky Ruschman (right) with her late roommate, Mary Read, who was killed during the  shootings at Virginia Tech University last April.
“Throughout the day [Mary] hadn’t shown up yet. I was hoping for the best. It wasn’t until 10 at night that I knew for sure,” Ruschman said. “Really it could have been anyone. Why he picked that classroom and that floor, I don’t know.”

The he was student Seung-Hui Cho, who shot and killed 32 students and teachers April 16 before killing himself.

Calling her roommate a “happy, fun” person, Ruschman remembered trips to the gym, movies and talks about “boy problems.” Noting that she’ll miss Read’s gentle teasing, she said, “We’d make fun of each other, but we both knew we were joking. We were pretty close—very similar in a lot of ways. I don’t think we ever got into a single fight.”

Ruschman went home after the shooting, worshiping that Sunday at her congregation, Arndts Lutheran in Easton, Pa.

“I still don’t know [how I feel],” she told The Lutheran during finals week in May. “The whole reality of it hasn’t really set in. ... Everyone has expressed that they’re so sorry. Really that’s all you can say. I would say it too. But after awhile it gets tiring to hear.”

Yet those words of support are still important, as well as the words “I’m here if you need me,” Ruschman said. “You don’t want to try to force information out of someone who is just overwhelmed,” she added. “At the time we might not acknowledge it, but eventually we’ll need someone to talk to.”

She found people to talk to in the Lutheran Student Movement at Virginia Tech, which she called “a way you can still be connected to God while you’re in school.”

“When I first came back to the room and all her stuff was gone, people from the LSM were there supporting me,” she said. “I just try to think that now she’s in a better place and nothing bad can happen to her.”

This summer, Ruschman will be back on campus, pursuing a civil engineering degree. “I’m not scared to come back,” she said. “I like this school so much.”


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