LIANE HANSEN, Host:
NPR's Rachel Martin reports.
RACHEL MARTIN: Churchgoers: (Singing) (Unintelligible) you take away the sins of the world...
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: At St. Mary's Catholic Church a few blocks from campus, a couple hundred people gathered around five o'clock in the evening for mass. The bishop of Richmond, Virginia, Francis DiLorenzo, came down to deliver a special mass of healing for this congregation, which like others here have strong ties to Virginia Tech.
FRANCIS DILORENZO: It's okay to be shocked. It's okay to grieve. It's okay to experience sorrow and loss. We do believe as a community that life is changed, not ended. So in the fog of emotional despair, we offer hope.
MARTIN: This church lost one of its own in the attacks, Kevin Granata, who was one of two engineering professors killed last week. Reverend Mike Ellerbrock led a prayer for his family and others who were suffering.
MIKE ELLERBROCK: Congregation: Lord, have mercy on us.
(SOUNDBITE OF CONGREGATION)
MARTIN: Unidentified Group: (Singing) Ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no valley low enough...
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MARTIN: Unidentified Man: We have P.B. and jam, P.B. and jam. It's right here, it's where it's at.
MARTIN: It's a stark and dramatic change. A week ago, on a cold a wintry day, students ran through the same grassy field with their hands above their heads trying to escape the gunman's shots. Six days later, the sun's now shining. Students play Frisbee on the grass, moms push their kids in strollers and vendors hand out free ice cream. But memorials line the field - flowers, candles, stones - marking the 33 lives lost on that day. It's a complicated scene, and it's just too much for some students to handle.
JOSH BRYER: It's a lot better now. But it's still just a very depressing vibe on campus just seeing people...
MARTIN: Right across the street from the Drill Field on the third floor of the library sat 20-year-old Josh Bryer(ph) and his girlfriend Kristin Matthews(ph). They were two of only a handful of people there. I found them in a corner of the English Literature section trying to catch up on a week of missed schoolwork.
KRISTIN MATTHEWS: I'm the kind of person who waits the last minute, like, I want, like, I want to take my finals just even for the sheer fact to see if I've learned anything.
MARTIN: Matthews was supposed to be in Norris Hall on Monday morning when the shootings happened, but she slept in and skipped class. Like other students here, it's been hard to concentrate on schoolwork. But now, she says it's a welcome distraction. Matthews says it is time to start classes again. She says the gunman, Seung-hui Cho, has already stolen so many lives he shouldn't get to steal any more time.
MATTHEWS: I'm glad that they're doing it sooner. It's better to get back into it. And if we didn't do that, then he won.
MARTIN: Rachel Martin, NPR News, Blacksburg, Virginia.
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