Staying Strong After Tragedy: Virginia Tech Victim’s Dad Shares His Story

By Tom Gilson Published on February 17, 2018

The  Parkland, Florida shooting forces the hard question upon us again: Is it possible even to think about staying strong after tragedy?

I was living in Virginia in April, 2007, at the time of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. My wife and I had a connection to one of the victims, Lauren McCain, through a close mutual friend, so we went to offer our prayers and sympathy during the viewing at her church on the night before her funeral.

Her body lay in a casket at the front of the sanctuary. And her dad was in a side room with an old friend, telling him the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Good news? Yes. He understood the reality that overcomes evil. So did Lauren. She had journaled messages before her death showing she was ready to face anything that might happen.

What do we do with mass shootings? What do we do with violence in general? Pundits keep publishing and re-publishing their answers, but none of them can speak with the credibility of David McCain. I’ll let him share it in his own words.

Tragedies Happen; Evil Is Never Far Enough Away

I don’t think David would mind if I add some observations of my own. The first one, one we’d all like to ignore or forget, is that tragedy is always lurking. A good friend of mine in Florida lost his high-school age daughter, his only child, to a car accident. In a moment his world was upended. Another friend lost her 20-something son to a rare and completely unexpected complication from Lasik surgery.

Tragedy comes unexpectedly; so does evil. I’ve lost two first cousins to murder, in two unrelated incidents. One them was killed in such an unlikely way you’d think was an urban legend; but no, Brian was my cousin, and evil can strike from the most unexpected direction. (He died not long after that article was written.)

The problem isn’t one weapon or another. My other cousin’s killing was brutal and it was horrifying, but it involved no guns. The problem, ultimately, is evil.

Follow the Example of One Who Was Prepared

Or I should say, evil is the most horrifying face of the problem; yet even the most peaceful natural death is the encroachment of “the last enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26). For this there is but one ultimate answer, perhaps two. The first and most important is the one that David McCain knows, and his daughter did, too: Be ready. Give your life to Jesus Christ. Be prepared for eternity with the God who came to die for you. Some folks I used to work with explain it this way.

The other answer is to do your part to resist evil by doing good, being an expression of God’s goodness. Again, there is nothing like life in Christ to empower you to love, to give, and live in hope and joy.

These aren’t the kind of public policy answers all the pundits seem to cry out for. But for you and for me, they’re the kind of answers that can make all the difference.

They made all the difference for David McCain. And he’s in a position to know.

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