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Church offers support at Virginia Tech

April 20, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Christina Wolfe said she could "feel the sadness" on the Virginia Tech campus upon her arrival Wednesday with other members of Gateway Ministries in Williamsport.

Fifteen members of the church piled into two vans early Wednesday and made the 4 1/2-hour drive to Blacksburg, Va., to offer spiritual support, she said.

They gathered in a large field next to the building where more than 30 people were killed Monday morning by a lone gunman.

"You could just feel the sadness," said Wolfe, a Hagerstown resident. "It was overwhelming. A lot of people were crying. There was a lot of grief in the air."

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The group made the decision during a Tuesday night church service to make the trip, Wolfe said.

Despite the heavy-heartedness, she said they were greeted with kindness and open arms from students and faculty, and even reporters covering the tragedy.

"It was an opportunity I didn't want to miss," Wolfe said. "I feel for those people ... I felt honored to go down."

Ross Eddy of Martinsburg, W.Va., a member of Gateway Ministry, said the congregation members stayed for about 2 1/2 hours before returning home.

The people on campus were grateful after they heard that the church members traveled such a long way to help, he said.

"It was a long ride, that's for sure, but it was worth it," he said. "The main theme of our church is No One Stands Alone. We just wanted to make sure we were there for them."

Hagerstown resident Peppy Smith said one of the saddest moments for him during the trip was meeting a female student who had lost three of her friends in the shooting.

"They weren't with her anymore," he said. "There were a lot hugs - a lot of tears."

Entire families traveled to Virginia Tech to be with their loved ones, Smith said.

If the need for spiritual support endures, he said some members of Gateway Ministries would like to revisit the campus.

"But I can't say, 'If the need is there,'" Smith said. "It will always be there."

The Rev. Dale C. Cosden, associate pastor and business administrator of Gateway Ministries, said the church is planning another spiritual outreach on the Virginia Tech campus April 28.

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