Austin Cloyd

Austin Cloyd

Hometown: Blacksburg, Va.

Age: 18

Class: Freshman

Major: International Studies

Profile: All day Monday, friends left messages looking for Austin Cloyd, an 18-year-old freshman from Blacksburg whose father is a professor at Virginia Tech. A Facebook page filled with notes from friends praying for her, and pleading for news.

"Austin . . . you are so loved and I just hope that you are going to be alright . . . " a friend wrote.

At 5:30 that night, the pastor from their former church back in Illinois spoke with Bryan and Renee Cloyd. They still hadn't heard from their daughter.

Friends began to hope she was in surgery -- maybe she was unconscious, maybe she was on a ventilator. Her former church started a prayer chain.

After midnight, a friend from high school posted a note on Facebook that her parents had gone to the hospital in Roanoke, but when they got there, she wasn't there.

Some 24 hours after the shooting, her parents finally got word, said their pastor, the Rev. Terry Harter. They were shown a photograph of one of the bodies.

Her family was unable to talk about it, but sent an e-mail about their daughter, a dean's list student in the honors program, that ended: "the world has lost a very special person."

As word spread, friends cried, and laughed, at their memories. They talked about how much Austin Cloyd loved to act, to sing, play volleyball, read, go shopping. She was always dressed just-so. A friend remembers a trip to Old Navy taking 90 minutes of careful analysis. Bailey Hampton, a 17-year-old friend from Illinois, said she was "high-maintenance, in a good way." Always put together.

She was striking, very tall, with pale skin and bright red, curly hair, a big smile. Chris Nicosia, a freshman, remembers turning around at the Justin Timberlake concert last month and seeing her there unexpectedly, dressed in red, completely dazzling him.

"She radiated," Martha Harter said.

She remembered birthdays and wrote thank-you notes. She loved little kids. She taught 4- and 5-year-olds to swim at Tech, laughing with Nicosia about funny things the kids did -- like drinking from the pool. She was a lifeguard, too, someone who would take on extra work without a complaint, said her swimming supervisor, Katherine Frasca.

She kept ties to Texas, where she and her parents and younger brother lived before Illinois, and to Illinois when they moved to Virginia in 2005.

She took mission trips to Appalachia, climbing on roofs to patch them, helping to install plumbing or shore up worn-out walls.

That's what Hampton will remember, she said: Cloyd sleeping on the ground on those weeklong volunteer trips, and laughing when they showered in the rain -- she made sure to shave her legs.

She loved international studies, and languages.

When Harter heard that some of the victims were in a language class, her heart stopped for a moment. It made her think of Cloyd.

In January, Austin Cloyd and her mother had hopped into a car one day and drove to Illinois to surprise old friends and catch up. They knocked on Harter's door one night, she said, and Austin was standing on the doorstep, grinning.

She had turned from a high-school student into a young lady, Harter said. She couldn't believe it. Harter burst out, "You're so beautiful! You're so grown up -- I can't take it!"

Her birthday is next week. Was next week.

-- Susan Kinzie, The Washington Post


© 2007 The Washington Post Company