A song in the night

Posted: Tuesday, April 17 at 09:46 pm ET by Bill Dedman, MSNBC.com

As the thousands drifted away from the candlelight vigil on the Virginia Tech drillfield Tuesday evening, a song rose from a circle of two dozen lights.

"O mothers, let’s go down. Come on down, don't you wanna go down? O mothers, let’s go down. Down in the river to pray..."

A woman in the circle, a generation older than the young men and women, said she had come up from western North Carolina to be with her son, a resident adviser in a dorm, an R.A. just like the first young man killed on Monday. She reached over to give him a hug as they sang on.

"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound..."

The group grew to 30, singing from the heart, tears on many cheeks. They all knew the same songs, the same harmonies.

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine..."

Was this an organized group, a church choir? No, she said, "just Christians."

"Lean on me, when you're not strong, and I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on..."

We wanted to know, what was her son's story? Her name? And how had a son's mother gotten through these days?

"I don't want to be interviewed," she said gently. "This is worship. This is giving thanks."

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As officials, students and families struggle to come to terms with the tragedy at Virginia Tech, a team of MSNBC.com reporters and editors and NBC News producers and correspondents is on the scene.