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2 Baptist students among shooting victims

BLACKSBURG, Va. (BP)–Two of the 32 victims in the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech University had ties to Southern Baptist ministries.

Rachael Hill, 18, was a freshman at Virginia Tech and was attending a French class at Norris Hall when she died at the hands of gunman Cho Seung-Hui. Hill graduated in 2006 from Grove Avenue Christian School, a ministry of Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., with an enrollment of about 260 students.

“Rachael was an incredible witness for Christ, the love of Christ shone through her to others,” Clay Fogler, the school’s administrator, wrote in an e-mail to Baptist Press.

Fogler gave BP a copy of a letter he sent April 17 to members of the Grove Avenue school community in which he noted Hill’s “beauty, intelligence, poise, leadership, and other wonderful traits.”

“We offer our prayers, spiritual support, and love to her parents and relatives as they go through this tragedy,” Fogler wrote. “Any parent would have counted it a privilege to have called her their daughter.”

Hill was the only child of Alan and Tammy Hill of Glen Allen, Va., the Richmond Times-Dispatch said.

“I was her principal for a year and had worked with her for several years,” Martha Isaacs, a former employee of the school, told Baptist Press. “She was a wonderful young lady, very bright, very gifted. She had a close relationship with her parents and her fellow students here. She was very spiritually mature. She loved the Lord and was just an asset to our school.”

In his letter, Fogler said Hill was “perpetually prepared” and one of her favorite verses was Song of Solomon 8:5, which says, “Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?”

“Rachael saw herself as the one coming out of the wilderness and needing to lean on her Savior more and more,” Fogler wrote. “The world has lost one of its brightest prospects, but the Lord is glorified through the Daughter of the King that she is, the life that she lived, and the impact Rachael had on others in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Some say the quote from Christian author C.S. Lewis that Hill submitted for her senior yearbook was almost prophetic. It said, “God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”

Mark Becton, pastor of Grove Avenue Baptist Church, told The Washington Post the school plans to retire Hill’s jersey from her time on the school’s volleyball team. She was honored last year as sportswoman of the year, he said. The Times-Dispatch reported that Hill was interested in biology though she had not yet declared a major at Virginia Tech, and she was an excellent piano player.

Brian Bluhm, 25, was just weeks away from graduating with a master’s degree in water resources after also earning an undergraduate degree in civil engineering at Virginia Tech. He was attending a class in advanced hydrology in Norris Hall when he was killed, The Post reported.

Bluhm was active in the Baptist Campus Ministry at Virginia Tech, and he was known for his sense of humor and his exceptional enthusiasm for the Hokies and the Detroit Tigers baseball team. Bluhm was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, spent some of his childhood in Detroit and moved with his parents to Louisville, Ky., when he was 7, the Detroit Free Press reported.

His passion for the Tigers led Bluhm to help found a blog dedicated to the team, Motownsports.com. On Monday, several people posted messages to the site, asking if Bluhm had been safe when the shootings occurred, the Free Press said, but he didn’t answer. As a tribute to the Tigers fan, a Detroit announcer asked for a moment of silence for the shooting victims — including Bluhm — before the team’s game against the Kansas City Royals Tuesday night.

“We know he was very active in the online community,” Rob Matwick, vice president of communications for the Tigers, told the Free Press. “We felt it was appropriate that we at least remember him with a moment of silence.”

A post left on Bluhm’s blog April 17 characterized Bluhm as “intelligent, thoughtful, considerate, and polite in all of his postings.”

“Anything he wrote, you wanted to know what he was saying because he was always right,” the poster, Bill Ferris, said, according to the Free Press.

Bluhm had accepted an engineering job in Baltimore and secured an apartment there with plans to move in July, The New York Times said.

“He deserved every good thing in the world, and we are all shocked and deeply saddened to have lost him,” Hannah Barnhill, one of his friends, told The Times.

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  • Erin Roach