BLACKSBURG, Va. (BP)–Nicole White was a strong Southern Baptist who had a passion for evangelism and helping other people, her youth pastor said after news broke that she was among the 32 victims of the Virginia Tech shootings.
White, 18, was a junior majoring in international studies and a member of Nansemond River Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va.
At a news conference April 19, White’s pastor recounted the moments when her parents, Mike and Tricia White, first heard about the April 16 shootings. After unsuccessful attempts at reaching her by cell phone, they called her friends, who were unable to locate her. Then they learned that White was scheduled to be in a German class in Norris Hall at the time the gunman opened fire.
“After exhausting all attempts to locate their daughter remotely, Mike and Tricia, along with their son, were driven to Blacksburg by a friend,” Tim Piland, pastor of Nansemond Baptist Church, said at the news conference. “They arrived late Monday evening and were placed in the Tech Inn along with other student families.”
Early Tuesday morning, Gary Vaughn, the associate pastor for students at Nansemond Baptist, received a phone call from the Whites indicating their daughter was most likely one of the victims. Vaughn and Piland then drove to Blacksburg to be with the family.
“I’ve known her for about 10 years,” Vaughn told Baptist Press. “She was a girl who had great relationships. She loved people, and people loved her. She was part of a FAITH evangelism team, and evangelism was a passion of hers — defending and sharing her faith.”
Vaughn said White wasn’t someone who judged people by their appearances but instead wanted to take the time to get to know them. Consequently, she had a variety of friends, he said.
“In that process, she was very faithful in sharing about her relationship with Christ. That’s probably the biggest thing about her,” Vaughn said.
In high school, White served as an EMT with the Smithfield Volunteer Rescue Squad and was a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the local YMCA. In Blacksburg, she volunteered at an animal shelter and at a battered women’s shelter.
“She loved helping people. She was just an amazing girl,” Vaughn said. “I think the thing I remember the most about her was her humor. She loved to laugh and had a great laugh.”
Piland said White’s family was in the process of identifying her body and waiting for her to be released for burial.
“The White family also wants you to know that even in the midst of unimaginable pain and tragedy, they have been sustained by their faith,” Piland told reporters. “The promise given by the Lord Jesus Christ to comfort in the midst of sorrow has been and is being fulfilled in their lives. Both Gary and I can attest to the strength they have received.”
Meanwhile, other reports are surfacing that indicate some of the other students who were killed had faith connections.
Mary Read, a native of South Korea and a freshman at Virginia Tech, had become active in Bible study and Campus Crusade for Christ in college.
“She was caring, kind, compassionate and loving — everything you could ask for in a friend,” Mary Draper, a high school classmate, told USA Today.
Lauren McCain was an active member of Campus Crusade for Christ and named Jesus Christ and her brother Joel as two of her heroes on her MySpace webpage. “Every conversation we had was about God,” Delia D’Auria, the worship pastor’s wife at Restoration Church-Phoebus Baptist in Hampton, Va., told USA Today. “There was no opportunity that we spoke that our hearts didn’t connect with spiritual matters.”
In fact, when considering colleges, the homeschooled McCain was leery of choosing Virginia Tech because she dreaded the secular worldviews she would encounter from professors, the newspaper reported.
“She was the one when you needed a friend, she was the friend. As a 20-year-old, she was one of the exceptions to the rule,” Leonard Riley, a retired minister, told USA Today. “She was a young lady who loved the Lord Jesus with all of her heart.”
Austin Cloyd, a freshman majoring in international studies, was a member of First United Methodist Church in Champaign, Ill., before moving to Blacksburg, where her father is an accounting professor at Virginia Tech, USA Today said.
A receptionist at Blacksburg Baptist Church confirmed to Baptist Press that Cloyd is the granddaughter of one of their church members.
As reported previously by BP, freshman Rachael Hill was a graduate of Grove Avenue Christian School, a ministry of Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., and graduate student Brian Bluhm was active in the Baptist Campus Ministries at Virginia Tech. Bluhm reportedly attended Northstar Church in Blacksburg, which is affiliated with the Baptist General Association of Virginia.
The Jewish community of Brooklyn, N.Y., mourned the death of a Holocaust survivor April 18 during the first in a series of funerals expected for the victims. Liviu Librescu, 76, was the professor who stood in the doorway of a classroom in Norris Hall to block the gunman from attacking his students. Librescu, who was sent to an internment camp near Focsani, Romania, when he was 10, was an Israeli citizen noted for his contributions to the aerospace industry.