VIM Magazine, a student-run fashion, beauty and lifestyle publication at Michigan State University, had a routine biweekly meeting the night of Feb. 13 in Bessey Hall.
Minutes into the 8 p.m. meeting, students received an alert that changed their campus forever.
At the meeting, members were to hear from VIM alumni about how their experience in the organization has helped them in their careers.
They were supposed to leave the meeting with advice and excitement for their future. Instead, they fled with the words run, hide and fight engraved in their minds.
After receiving the alert, it was up to VIM’s editors-in-chief and their assistant to decide how to react.
Anna Traver, one of VIM’s editors-in-chief, wrote:
“I remember being scared and confused. No one really knew where the shooter was, if he was close by or on foot. We were just trying to figure out what to do,” Traver wrote.
Bessey Hall was approximately a seven-minute walk from Berkey Hall where shots were initially fired.
“We checked the doors to see if they could lock, and they didn’t. When we realized they didn’t lock, we interrupted the alumni panel and told them quickly what was going on and that we had to go. We shut down the Zoom and told everyone to leave and get home safe,” Traver wrote.
Members gathered their belongings and rushed out of the room as fast as they could.
People with cars started frantically offering rides to those who walked or took the bus.
“I said that I could take anyone that needed a ride, so five people came with me in my car. Some other people took members as well who didn’t have rides,” Traver wrote.
Panic, fear and confusion filled the air as a massive crowd of members ran out of Bessey Hall and into the parking lot.
Morgan Barbat, assistant to the editors-in-chief, wrote,
“There was a big responsibility to make sure that the members I took with me got home safely. The fact that they trusted me enough to make sure I got them home makes me feel so grateful but saddens me that it’s something we even have to do to begin with,” Barbat wrote.
Most members left Bessey Hall but some stayed behind as they did not have anywhere else to go.
VIM member Lily Stroup was one of around 20 members who had stayed in Bessey Hall.
“I heard from my cousin, who was in the union at the time of the shooting, that the shooter was in or around north campus which is where I live. I decided, along with my friend in VIM who lives in the north neighborhood as well, to stay put in Bessey while a lot of VIM members left,” Stroup wrote.
Knowing that some members stayed behind terrified Traver and Barbat.
“I was communicating with them through our GroupMe chat, asking for safety updates during it. I was terrified for them,” Traver wrote.
“I definitely felt responsible for our members. It was the worst feeling in the world to know that some of our members had to stay in the classroom. I kept repeating to myself, “I could have sworn I was the last one out,” but I knew I had to also make sure that the members I took home got out safely, as well,” Barbat wrote.
VIM members who stayed were in Bessey Hall for four and a half hours, hiding for three and waiting with the police for an all-clear until the shelter in place was lifted.
“We all stayed in room 108, turned off the lights and shut the doors. The room is big, so we huddled in the back behind all the chairs near an emergency exit, just in case we had to run,” Stroup wrote.
“We were listening to the police scanner and trying to figure out a way to hide or run if the shooter came into the room,” she wrote. “I think I blacked out, to be honest. I kind of went into a mode of leadership and did not feel emotional or scared in the moments of hiding, just knowing and feeling it was unsafe in my gut. Once the police found us though, I completely broke down and finally felt a weight off my shoulders that we were safe for a moment,” Stroup wrote.
“I have survivor’s guilt over how I wish I stayed with members in Bessey. It makes me feel so sick to my stomach that this was something we had to endure, that people have experienced this before and that it is still happening. We need change,” Barbat wrote.
“My biggest regret from that night was not making an attempt to barricade anything since the doors could not lock from the inside. We assumed and hoped that the building went into lockdown, but I still have no clue if that was accurate,” Stroup wrote.
Because the tragedy happened during a VIM meeting, it was important to find a way to make the transition back into meetings easier.
VIM’s meeting location changed from Bessey Hall to Wells Hall to accommodate members.
Zoom options were offered for the first two meetings to ease members back in and allow them to take their time in returning to campus.
VIM’s most recent meeting was in-person as members continue to heal.
“It has been so good to see our members and do what we love,” Traver wrote.