It has been just over one month since four hours of fear gripped the students of Michigan State University as the reality of a school shooting took hold.
What began as any other Monday, packed full of classes and deadlines, ended in the most fearful moments of my life.
My roommates and I congregated on the stairs that evening, one of us preparing to attend a birthday party at the Graduate and the other two preparing for a night of studying at the library. The three of us sat on the steps looking at one another, and it was clear that nobody wanted to leave the house that night. Call it intuition?
It was not uncommon to spend our nights at the library. My roommate, Rachel Gross, and I even had a table we often sat at. We were at our usual table that night.
It was 8:27 p.m. when I received the first text from my roommate, Adrianna Pipe, who was at the Graduate, a hotel on Grand River a tenth of a mile from the Union. She had become aware of the situation after two students came running in from the Union, shouting to lock the doors and find safety. There was an active shooter on campus.
Are you guys OK?
There is an active shooter.
An indescribable level of fear coursed through my body as I looked through the library windows to see police cars surrounding the Union. This was real. It was our turn.
To my right, I saw students rushing through the library doors in search of safety. Whispers picked up as those around us became aware of the horrific reality of our situation. I locked eyes with Gross, and I had never seen such genuine fear take hold of a person. The terror spread all over my face as well.
“I looked at you and I saw the panic on your face,” Gross said. “I’m like, we have to go, that’s our only option … you never know where [the shooter] is going next.”
So we ran.
My roommate and I, along with two girls sitting at the table behind us, sprinted to the car. We had no idea where the shooter was at that moment or how many there were. We only had a fierce desire to get out.
We drove fast and far, going anywhere to feel a sense of safety. Eventually, we made it to our house off campus.
Although we began the night as strangers, the names and faces of those two girls will be with me forever. You never forget the hand you held during those pivotal moments.
The next four hours were spent barricaded in my upstairs bedroom. Tears streamed down my face as I continued to ensure all of my loved ones that I was safe. It was darkness and complete silence, aside from the police scanner and occasional sobs.
Five girls, hand in hand, with nothing to do but wait.
Run. Hide. Fight.
I would have thought those four hours of lockdown were going to be the worst of my life. I would have thought the fear I felt in those crucial moments would be unmatched. I was wrong. The span of emotion that followed was much more powerful than the shooting itself.
The days that followed left a once-vibrant campus empty. Tears flowed and hearts mourned. The silence was deafening from a place that once held so much excitement.
There are pieces of that night that will remain engrained in our hearts and minds forever. Some details are too powerful to forget.
“I will never forget peeking out of our blinds and seeing five ambulances, one by one, race down the street toward Sparrow Hospital,” said Claire Yee, a Michigan State junior.
Each of us is left with different memories, though they all hold the same weight.
“I can’t drive down Grand River without seeing thousands of cop cars,” Pipe said. “I’ll never be able to walk through campus the same way.”
A piece of our campus was taken from us that night. For thousands across the nation, Michigan State is home. It is a place of liveliness and opportunity, a place that harbors the best four years of your life.
Through a senseless act of violence, it has now become a place of immense fear and heartache.
I used to feel community in the way we cheered on our football team. I used to feel community in the way “Go Green” was quickly followed by a “Go White.” I have felt community so deeply since the moment I became a Spartan.
After enduring the events of Feb. 13, I now feel community in the way we love and the way we show up for one another in our greatest times of need.
“The amount of people that were reaching out to me and the support that I felt was strong,” Pipe said.
Life suddenly seems like a before and after. Our campus and our community will never be the same, though there is something notable about moving forward and grieving together.
“I’ve always felt a strong presence of community within Michigan State,” Yee said. “Spartans, we stick together.”
Grieving and healing together have made it possible for us to begin moving forward. Because of our love and devotion to this campus and all that it stands for, we have begun to reclaim it.
Something about going through trauma and tragedy alongside thousands of others brings a whole group of people together, Gross said.
They say time heals all wounds.
Though I could have never imagined the pain and fear inflicted on a campus I love so dearly, Michigan State will be remembered for the amount of strength and compassion we showed during our most difficult moments.
“I want there to be a strong MSU community forever. I want MSU to always be such a pillar in our state and in the national view,” Pipe said. “I want people to look up to MSU.”
Signs displaying messages of loss, strength, and unity continue to line the sidewalks of campus. Although the Michigan State community will never forget the tragedy of Feb. 13, I believe that time will allow Spartans to regain their home and their campus.
I believe that we will be among the change makers.
“I think the Spartan community will inspire change,” Yee said. “Because this should not have to happen to anybody else.”