Updated: Mar 14
On February 13th, 2023 at 8:17 p.m. a campus alert notification crossed the screen of every Michigan State University student, staff member and affiliate.
Many students shrugged it off as the usual tomfoolery occurring on Grand River. A drunk man arguing with a student again, some assumed.
Another message hit student’s phones, this time with the order:
“Run, hide, fight.”
The passive shrug turned to confusion which quickly snowballed into fear.
“We could hear shots above us in the Union. When I tried to walk out of the room, an MSU Union staff member said we needed to go back and go into lockdown mode for an active shooter in the building. We turned off the lights and went behind the tables and called MSUPD.” Said Devin Woodruff, an MSU junior.
Students remained in lockdown for four hours as the gunman ran loose on campus. Most damage was done in Berkey and the Union.
Police scanners were clouded with scared students, concerned community members, and emergency personnel. The scanner allowed for students to hear in real-time any updates on the gunman’s location and activities - but it also allowed for malice.
Within due time a false bomb reports came on the line confusing students and police, prank calls threw off location progress, misinformation clogged the line.
Social media posts first claimed a white man in a Facebook post was the culprit. Unfortunately, he was a random man from Facebook whose picture had been used in many chat forums for other random tragedies. A snapchat post showed three men with long guns walking down a campus sidewalk. People claimed that there were three shooters instead of just one. That photo actually showed three police officers looking for the true culprit. Reports of the gunman in the Communication Arts building were called in as well as a report of gunfire in Wonders and Holden Hall.
Mass confusion only added to the terror of the night.
Three students passed away that night and as of today, February 20th, 2022, five students remain in the hospital in critical condition - one international student is paralyzed from the chest down.
In the end, the gunman turned the gun on himself.
The day was cold and gray. Police tape battled with the wind to hold still. Leafless stood dauntingly as students and community members walked around capus in a near daze with their coats zipped up to their chins. Police officers scattered around campus as clean-up crews worked inside the buildings. Students stood outside of Berkey and the Union waiting for law enforcement to allow them to retrieve their belongings from the previous night.
News stations from around the country were parked on Grand River. Cameramen and reporters came flocking in like a flock of vultures to interview students. Students who witnessed the
murder of their classmates less than twelve hours earlier were put in the spotlight and asked to recount the worst night of their lives.
Cameras followed students at vigils on campus.
Students could not grieve their deceased classmates without a camera capturing their teardrops and turning it into content.
Private moments exploited for profit ran rampant across campus as the media tried to compete for another top story while actively re-traumatizing students.
Well-meaning local journalists in the area approached students with empathy and patience while larger networks took advantage of the situation and left East Lansing in their vans just as fast as they came.
Fortunately, the East Lansing community showed they were #SpartanStrong in the following days.
Spartans placed flowers around campus at prominent sites like Berkey, the Union, and other locations. The Sarty statue and The Rock became a memorial with hundreds of flowers and cards gifted by Spartans and community members alike. People from all over town came to pay their respects and grieve.
Local stores and restaurants gave free meals, free flowers, free delivery services, and free activities for students to partake in so that they could take care of their mental-health during the week.
In addition to local businesses supporting students, MSU offered free counseling to anyone affected from parents and students, to faculty.
East Lansing, the state capitol, Detroit, among others, all held vigils and memorials in honor of the lives lost.
Debates revolving around whether or not students should return to campus began to arise. Other topics of discussion included how MSU would prevent events like Monday to happen again or if it was avoidable in the first place.
All discussion led to one topic: Gun Control.
On February 20th, 2023, Students took to the capitol the day classes were set to resume to protest.
Over a thousand students sat on the front lawn of the state capitol and demanded change.
“I just turned 21 last week and on this past Monday night. I listened to police scanners for 922 calls that were just like the ones I heard at age twelve. At age twenty-one, while hiding in my closet with a knife, I had Valentine’s cards in my pocket just like I did at age sixteen. At twenty-one, I relived moments of fear, confusion, and hysteria as I did during my high-school lockdown at age seventeen. After years of thinking about what king of barricade I would make during a school shooting, I made one in my very own dorm at age twenty one.” Said Bianca Lagon, an MSU junior.
Gun-control activist and Stoneman Douglas survivor, David Hogg, spoke at the rally in an attempt to support students.
Go-FundMe fundraisers have been founded and met with astounding aide from students, families, and businesses.
Staff and faculty welcomed students in attendance back to class with therapy dogs, stuffed animals, hugs, smiles, food, and warmth.
The once cold campus filled with cop cars and police tape was reignited with the warmth only a community could make.
“There’s a lot that can be done and as a survivor I feel like I can hopefully push for a good change.” Woodruff said.
There are students crying, hospitalized, scared, traumatized, numb, angry, and even no longer with us. MSU students are processing grief that many of them will never fully recover from. Friends, sons, daughters, partners, classmates, were lost to a senseless act of violence.
The shooting has also created lasting affects on the mental-health and wellbeing of many students on campus.
“I have a little survivor’s guilt. I think about how I was just lucky and in somewhat of the right place. I also feel bad that out school has now created a vibe that doesn’t feel safe and no student should feel not safe at their school.” Woodruff said.
There will always be a hole from what Spartans lost and that hole will never be filled with the laughter and love that the lost students once carried, but maybe that hole is able to be filled with something else. Something that fuels a fire so that these things never happen on another campus.
While three students are no longer walking on campus, their presence was felt and their names live on. The lives they touched and their stories permeate the layer of hatred that lead to their deaths.
Arielle Anderson, a nineteen year old victim from Grosse Pointe, wanted to be a pediatric doctor.
Brian Fraser, a sophomore from Grosse Point, was the President of Phi Delta Theta MSU Chapter.
Alexandria Verner, a junior from Clawson, studied biology and played multiple sports
These lives ended prematurely due to the ever-growing gun-violence issue in the United States and while they may no longer be here, their name evokes power, resilience, and honor for every person impacted by the tragedy that struck campus.
May their names last forever on the tongues of every person who knew them and may their loved ones find peace.
Lastly, may we heal as Spartans.
Forever green and white.