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Students remembered as solid Christians

BLACKSBURG, Va. (BP)–Two more students who died at Virginia Tech April 16 were identified as active members of Southern Baptist churches. Jarrett Lane belonged to First Baptist Church in Narrows, Va., and Lauren McCain was part of Restoration Church Phoebus Baptist in Hampton.

“He was here every Sunday. This past Sunday he even took up the collection. He was one of the ushers,” John Sheally, church secretary at First Baptist Narrows, told Baptist Press.

Also among the Virginia Tech students who were Southern Baptists were Rachael Hill, a member of Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Brian Bluhm of Northstar Church in Blacksburg, and Nicole White of Nansemond Baptist Church in Suffolk.


Lane, Sheally said, grew up in the church, and other members of his family including his mother and grandmother were faithful members of the church too. He said the congregation averages 100 to 125 each Sunday, so it’s a close-knit church.

“All of us are still deeply stunned and in shock over the loss of our son, grandson and brother, Jarrett Lee Lane,” his family said in a statement. “He was a fun-loving young man, full of spirit. He had a caring heart and was a friend to everybody he met, both at Virginia Tech and here in Narrows. We are leaning on God’s grace in these trying hours and appreciate all the prayers, expressions of sympathy, and thoughts.”

Lane was a senior civil engineering major at Virginia Tech, and news reports indicate he had been accepted into a graduate program at the University of Florida, where he was granted a full ride and a graduate assistantship to study coastal engineering.

“Here I am, 42 years old, and I haven’t accomplished near the things that he has in just 22 years of life,” Robert Stump, principal of Narrows High School, told the Baltimore Sun.

The valedictorian of his high school class, Lane was a noted athlete and a friend to many, the Sun said. Stump, who had known Lane well, made a commemorative display in the high school lobby of sports jerseys, yearbooks and a trombone Lane had played in the band.

“To find a picture, he simply walked down the hall and removed the one that has hung in the school for four years, hailing Lane’s achievements there,” the Sun reported.

In the town of 2,000 people 30 miles west of Blacksburg, maroon and orange ribbons hung in Lane’s honor after his death, and a bridge was draped with a sheet that said, “We miss U Jarrett,” the Sun said.

Though one resident told the newspaper, “He was our star,” Stump said Lane did not seek attention.

“He was not one that wanted to be in the spotlight. He was one who would rather put the school in the spotlight,” the principal said.

Despite the accolades for his high school successes, Lane wrote on his Facebook.com page that he was foremost a Christian. Others agreed.

“What summed him up best to me was that he was a good Christian,” Jenny Martin, a Narrows resident, told the Sun. “He wasn’t afraid to declare his faith in front of his friends. Do you know how special it is to find a young person like that? Someone even the adults could learn from?”

Funeral arrangements for Lane were being handled by Riffe’s Funeral Service in Narrows, which released a statement to the media.

“Even though Jarrett took great pride in being a Hokie and loved his years at Virginia Tech, he always made time for his friends and family in Narrows,” the statement said, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in West Virginia. “Jarrett spent numerous weekends in his hometown visiting family, attending First Baptist Church where he was a member, and playing sports with high school friends.

“He had an amazing ability not to take himself too seriously, but always took life and friendships seriously. He always took the time to talk to people and care for them while sharing God’s love,” the statement said.


McCain, a freshman international studies major at Virginia Tech, was so loved at her church, Restoration Church Phoebus Baptist in Hampton, that family and friends began gathering there to wait for news about her late Monday night. Her parents had gone to Blacksburg, and by Tuesday at noon there was no official word on her.

As about 50 people gathered in the church sanctuary, a cell phone rang on the back pew, the Daily Press in Hampton, Va., reported. News was that the medical examiner was going to meet with McCain’s parents at 1 p.m., and later the group learned they were “95 percent sure” she had been killed.

On her MySpace.com page, McCain had written about the certainty of her faith.

“I don’t have to argue religion, philosophy or historical evidence,” she wrote, according to the Daily Press, “because I KNOW him.”

In a birthday card to a friend recently, McCain had mentioned how wonderful she thought heaven would be, the newspaper said.

“Easter Sunday was the last day I had with Lauren,” Cordell Woods, an uncle who was at the church, told the Daily Press. “She was filled with a purpose. There was nothing negative in her life. And that’s the way I want to remember her.”

McCain’s parents released a statement Tuesday afternoon, which said, “We grieve over our great loss, and yet find peace in the reality that God is worthy of our trust and we are sustained in our sorrow by that truth.”

On Wednesday night, April 18, about 350 people gathered at the church to celebrate her life. Her mother expressed what she thought her daughter might want to say.

“Come on guys. This is so exciting! Let’s praise Him! Let’s praise Him!” Sherry McCain said, according to The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Hampton.

David Bounds, pastor of Restoration Church Phoebus Baptist, said the congregation takes comfort in knowing McCain is now where she wanted to be.

“She loved the Lord with all of her heart, and it showed,” Bounds said. “She just didn’t talk about the Lord; she lived Him.”

FamilyNet Television, a ministry of the SBC’s North American Mission Board, will air Hill’s memorial service live at 2 p.m. EDT Saturday, April 21.

In other developments, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine declared April 20 a statewide day of mourning for the 32 shooting victims, and bells tolled 32 times across the Virginia Tech campus in their honor as a moment of silence was observed at noon.

Residents in the state and across the nation were urged to wear the school colors, and even President Bush wore a maroon and orange tie as he spoke in Grand Rapids, Mich.

University President Charles Steger announced that classes will resume Monday, and the school “will move forward in a way that will honor the memory of those we have lost,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Barrett Duke of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the tragedy “should certainly be a reminder to the church that there are people in this country and throughout the world in great pain — great spiritual pain, great personal pain — and they need an answer.”

“And that ultimate answer is Jesus Christ,” Duke, vice president for public policy, said at an April 18 news conference among evangelicals held at the National Press Club in Washington.

Duke added that the church has “not done what we need to do to make sure that answer is everywhere at all times so that those suffering the kind of pain and the mental anguish that this young man [the gunman] was experiencing would know that there’s somebody that he could talk to who could point him to a God who could help him before he would engage in such horrific acts.”

The shootings, Duke said, are a call to the church to work together to proclaim the love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
With reporting by Tom Strode.

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  • Erin Roach