Michigan State students counted down the minutes to safety during shooting

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At 8:35 p.m. I received the first email. A Michigan State University alert notification stated, “MSU Police report shots fired incident occurring on or near the East Lansing campus. Secure-in-Place immediately. Run, Hide, Fight. Run means evacuate away from danger if you can do so safely, Hide means to secure-in-place, and Fight means protect yourself if no other option. Monitor alert.msu.edu for information.” 

Emails students received as the event was still taking place.

Less than 20 minutes earlier, at 8:19 p.m., I was on FaceTime with my friend Julia Spencer, also an MSU student. I was supposed to walk over to her apartment on the opposite side of campus at Haslett Arms. I called her because I had changed my mind. As we were on the phone, the sound of sirens came through her line, and I could not hear her. Seconds later, the sirens were outside my dorm. We did not think anything of it, there are sirens all the time in East Lansing, and we might have even made a joke about it.  

“When I first heard the sirens I thought nothing of it since we hear sirens all the time in East Lansing. I only realized it was such a big deal and a scary situation when we finally got an email from the university,” said Spencer.

At 8:34 p.m. my boyfriend called me. He was walking back from the STEM building. 

At 8:40 p.m. my friend from home, Mya Vredevoogd called me on FaceTime. I had just received the first email and opened it while I answered her call. I remember reading it out loud and telling her this was important, and I had to go. 

At 8:43 p.m. my sister called me. She was driving back from her internship. 

My roommate, Grace Bergren, came back right as I hung up with Mya. Our friend Maddie Myres followed behind her, she was scared to be alone because her roommate was still on campus. 

The emails, phone calls, and text messages all started rolling in by 9 p.m.  

Are you safe?

Where are you?

Who are you with?

I found it incredible how fast the word spread to people who live miles and miles away.  

“I was really grateful to be in my dorm where I felt safe and was behind many locked doors; but I was most grateful for how many friends and family reached out to me over the couple of hours when people heard about it,” said Bergren

It was when I got a text from a girl from high school, who I had rarely talked to that I realized my parents had not called. 

I am safe. Locked in my room with Grace and Maddie. Dresser is blocking the door. Love you.

My mom responded, Huh? What is going on? 

Four minutes later, she replied, Oh my gosh! Thank you for telling us. Stay put. Please let us know what is happening. Love you!

As we sat in the room with the lights off and the police scanner on, I remember frantically texting my boyfriend anytime the scanner said Cedar Village. I remember using breathing techniques to keep myself from panicking in front of my roommate. I remember answering texts and calls as fast as I could so that people knew I was safe. I remember saying countless prayers about the unknown. 

“I started to get nervous when I heard how many dorms and buildings were being reported hearing alleged gunshots by them. It sounded like there were multiple shooters around campus. There was a moment I was worried that this was a planned attack on MSU and even though I felt safe, maybe we weren’t,” said Bergren.

Julia had been picked up. Her parents left their home the second they found out. My boyfriend was locked in his bathroom with his three roommates. My sister was stuck on Grand River for 45 minutes waiting for the police to let her through. 

The rest of the night was a blur. The only way to describe how I felt was numb. I lay in my bed, wide-eyed all night until my boyfriend was able to take me to my car the next morning. 

At 10:17 a.m. I was on my way home. Never in my life was I more excited to see cornfields and get a hug from my mom.

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