Grief to acceptance: One family’s journey since the 2007 Virginia Tech Tragedy

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Lauren McCain was a 20-year-old freshman at Virginia Tech in April 2007. She was one of the first of 32 lives Seung-Hui Cho took that day.

WAVY’s Tom Schaad sat down with Dave McCain, Lauren’s father, to talk about the family’s journey from grief to acceptance in the wake of the shooting.

Virginia Tech Remembrance

Dave McCain credits his deep Christian faith to helping him understand what happened to his daughter, and that she’s in a better place.

“It’s a faith that God knows what he’s doing,” McCain said.  “The purpose and love of my life is Jesus Christ. I don’t have to argue religion, philosophy, or historical evidence, because I know him. He is just as real to me, if not more so, than my earthly father.”

McCain didn’t lose his daughter.

“People say, ‘How’s it feel to lose a daughter?’ We’ll I didn’t lose her, I know exactly where she’s at.”

Gallery: A father’s tears to forgiveness

McCain lovingly describes his daughter as a  young woman who had dreams of helping others abroad.

“She was absolutely in love with Jesus Christ,” he said. “If she saw somebody that was lonely, she’d go over to him. She didn’t want anyone to feel left out.”

No amount of determination from Lauren could change the events of April 16, 2007. When the initial reports of a shooting on the Virginia Tech campus reached David McCain, he immediately reached out to his wife.

“I called my wife and asked, ‘Are you concerned?’ And she said, ‘No, Lauren’s an international studies student. She’s not an engineer, and that’s an engineering building.’ So we didn’t worry about it.”

But the McCains later found one of Lauren’s classes was indeed in the building where the shooting happened. They made the drive from Hampton into a world of chaos. They found guidance from a pastor named Tim.

“And Tim said, ‘God said go to them,’ and he came over to us and he walked us through that whole evening.”

Then, the McCains learned of Lauren’s final moments from one of her classmates — moments marked by her signature smile.

“He told me later that right beforehand, someone made a joke and they were laughing. They were laughing right up until that guy came into the room.”

Lauren McCain was hit twice from behind.  She never saw it coming.

“She knew nothing. She didn’t hurt,” Dave McCain said. “And that was another blessing. That was one of my wife’s answered prayers.”

Lauren McCain was 20-years-old. To her father, it was a full life.

“We have a set number of days and how we choose to use them. You can use it as Lauren did, and make something out of it or you can waste them.”

David says his initial anger, and the question of why, was overcome by mercy.

“So you forgave the man who shot your daughter?” Tom Schaad asked him.

He responded: “Yes. A lot of people can’t understand that. Well, it’s what we’re told to do. You don’t repay evil with evil. You repay evil with kindness. You forgive those who offend you. It’s what Lauren would have wanted. It’s what Lauren would have wanted, definitely. That’s how she lived her life… It would be nothing but selfish of me to take that from her. But yes, I would love to hold her and I’m gonna hold her. It’s not an ending. It’s a transition.”

McCain says he gets calls and letters from people who got into Christian missionary work because of Lauren. That’s fitting from a young woman whose favorite passage from the Bible starts with the words, “Trust in the Lord and do good.”