This has been a week like no other in Southwestern Virginia, the home of Virginia Tech. So many questions have filled my soul, and we have shed buckets of tears. Although my daughters go to a different school, in another state, no place seems safe anymore. For us, especially so, because we have a connection to Virginia Tech.
My daughter, Helen, spent 3 semesters at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg Virginia. She was accepted into their Engineering Program with highest honors. She spent much of her days inside the building where the carnage took place. That's where all her professors' offices were. She looked forward to being a student of Professor Librescu, the holocaust survivor who laid down his life for his students, so that they could escape. There were other brilliant professors, as well, that she looked forward to working with. It is significant that Professor Librescu was killed on Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a reminder, to me, that holocaust is not far from any of us, at any time.
By the time that Helen entered her third semester, it was obvious that she was unhappy. She was under terrible stress. She was making all A's, but very unhappily. And I believe that we should not only do what we love, but we should also love what we do. There seemed to be little connection, I will say, spiritually, between the students and the teachers at Virginia Tech. While a few of Helen's teachers were wonderful, in other areas many things were overlooked that made Helen feel very unsafe.
It would have been easy for us to say, "Stick it out. Go forward. Let nothing stop you. Stay at Virginia Tech, and conquer your fears." However, in my many visits with Helen, I began to feel an intense pressure of unease. I would wait for her classes to end, and I would wait for her to walk through the door.
What was wrong with me, that I could not quench a burning desire, to bring her home? At the same time our other daughter, Jenny, was attending another university, south of where we live. The teachers and the atmosphere were caring, and her classes were exciting. Very little pressure was put on the students, and there was an open feeling to the entire campus.
I began to ask Helen what she really wanted out of school and her life. I talked with my husband and her. I prayed. Over and over I felt as though God were saying, "Helen doesn't belong here. Bring her home."
Before the next semester Helen was able to transfer to Jenny's university, where her talents are celebrated, and encouragement and "hands on" teaching, are the order of the day. The change has been miraculous. Helen has been so happy, and still is, until the day of the carnage at Virginia Tech.
If Helen had stayed at Virginia Tech; if we had coerced her to stay in the big school with the big name; there is no doubt that Helen would have been in the Engineering Building, that moment, that day. At the time that I was praying and feeling the pressure of God on my heart, I would have moved Heaven and Earth to make her leave Virginia Tech. I was ready to lay down in the driveway, if necessary, to keep her from driving away. I cannot answer why, except that God would not let me leave her there.
I have wrestled with this for three days. Along with my grief at the horror that was perpetrated in twenty minutes in the halls of a building where my daughter would have been, I do know this: I thank God that He is so hard on me. When He puts Godly pressure on me, it is nearly impossible to ignore. I thank Him, because Helen was not there. There is a terrible guilt that comes with that gratitude; the gratitude that makes me say, "Thank you, Lord, that it was not my child."
I'm not sure I know what the message is, except this: when we say good-bye to those we love, when we hug them, we must make every second of that hug count. Hug, love, and pray, as though we have the lips of God pressed to our ear. There may come a time that we will be certain that we do.