EAST LANSING — The morning after a lone gunman killed three people and left five critically ill at a Lansing hospital, people on campus shared their experiences as the shooting broke out and police stormed the university.
At around 8:18 pm on Monday, a single man entered Berkey Hall near Grand River Avenue and shot several people, killing two. Police say 43-year-old Anthony McRae went to the student union and killed another person and injured others before fleeing campus. He was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police Tuesday identified the three victims of the Monday night mass shooting on the Michigan State University campus as students Brian Fraser of Grosse Pointe, Alexandria Verner of Clawson and Arielle Anderson of Harper Woods.
After the shooting, people on campus and others reacted to the carnage.
Julia Wallace, a senior at MSU, placed three bouquets of flowers at the foot of the Sparty statue at MSU on Tuesday.
“With other mass shootings and school shootings, I unfortunately see people doing the same thing and holding memorials and just showing respect and for some reason that was the first thought in my mind this morning to show my community that I’ve been impacted and I feel for others,” she said. “I kind of didn’t think, I just thought. I got the three (bouquets) for the three lives lost because it’s just awful.
“I was completely numb last night. It’s so hard to take in and understand. This is where you do your homework. This is where you go to class. I’ve walked from Union to Berkey so many times in my life and I haven’t I couldn’t even imagine what those people went through in those hallways. If I was scared to death from two buildings away, I couldn’t imagine staring it in the face and seeing that,” she said.
Wallace was in Bessey Hall on Monday at a club meeting, talking to a panel of alumni via video link, when the alert popped up on the screen.
“As soon as it was announced, I was like, ‘Oh shit,’ I need to get out of here. So we all awkwardly got to our feet,” she said. “Do we hide? I was like, ‘I’m not going to sit here and be an easy target,’ that’s the last thing I’m going to do.
“We got up, walked out and calmly walked out of the building. And as soon as we got to the outer doors, we all started running to our cars and booked home,” she said.
‘A complete loss of security’
Cooper Burton, a senior, was practicing with his acapella group at IM Circle, about a quarter mile southwest of MSU Union. He was transferred to the building’s basement changing rooms around 8:50 pm.
“We heard reports of shootings across campus and we didn’t know what to believe – one would be very close to us and one would be on the other side of campus,” said Burton. “It’s hard not to latch on to those around you and think you’re about to get to where you are.”
Burton said that while he was barricaded, two students near him were talking about how this blockade was different from the last school shooting they experienced.
“It felt very dystopian,” he said.
The police cleared the IM Circle after about four hours and let the students leave on their own afterward. Burton said his feelings of safety on campus will likely never be the same.
“I didn’t get out of bed this morning and I really don’t want to get out,” he said. “I feel like a kid again. I feel like the places that were safe for me before aren’t anymore, and I feel like the things I took for granted just completely disappeared now.”
“Definitely a complete loss of security and a lot of anxiety to leave the house or do anything,” Burton said.
We were just spectators
Eleanor Hoss, a senior nursing student, was at The Graduate’s rooftop bar for a friend’s birthday party when she saw a crowd of emergency vehicles approaching the MSU Union at around 8:25 pm on Monday.
“We saw two police cars coming, then we saw three and four. And then we saw a fire truck pulling up the other way, and we saw more coming from the Okemos side and they just stormed into Union.
Hoss then saw students running out of exits with their hands raised at around 8:30 am, which continued for 10 to 15 minutes.
“We were just spectators,” she said. “Every time I looked down, it seemed like more (respondents) had arrived. It didn’t look like anything was dissipating.”
Hoss said the bar and hotel closed around 8:50 am – hotel guests were allowed to move around the hotel, but bar patrons had to stay. She remained at the bar until around midnight and was given a room voucher for her overnight stay at the hotel. The shelter-in-place order was lifted shortly afterwards and Hoss returned to his car.
“I got in my car and cried,” she said.
Hoss, a resident assistant at Armstrong Hall, estimated that at least half of its residents, mostly freshmen, went home after the shooting.
“It’s very quiet on my floor. I’m on a girls-only floor, and they’re usually pretty noisy. It’s dead quiet,” she said, adding that all residents were accounted for.
‘It’s all contaminated now’
Monday nights are “vodka noodle” nights for MSU journalism veteran Veronica Bolanos and her roommates, but this week a night of fun quickly turned into a night of fear.
The plates remained untouched like an apocalyptic scene as everyone exchanged group chat messages during the firefight, trying to figure out who was on campus. They finally barricaded the doors of their home north of Grand River Avenue, not far from where the shooting took place.
“It felt like the most vulnerable I’ve ever been, or the most helpless I could have been,” Bolanos said.
Her friend, Jane Nodland, was at the Union during the shooting and rushed with her boyfriend to the Graduate East Lansing hotel for safety. Bolanos’ younger brother Michael was at the MSU Auditorium and she picked him up from a nearby dorm.
“Yesterday showed that it can still happen anywhere, anytime, anywhere,” she said.
She said people should be thinking about their graduation pictures or spring break plans. But after Monday, “it’s all tainted now.”
MSU ‘felt so far away’ with daughter on campus
Geri Zeldes, a senior journalism professor and West Bloomfield resident, was concerned about her daughter Jordyn, who is in second grade.
“It seemed so far away,” said Zeldes. “I wanted to get in my car and get Jordyn. But I also wanted to be respectful of law enforcement officials who were asking parents not to go to campus and especially during active shooting.”
Jordyn Zeldes was holed up alone in her sorority room on Monday night, worried that moving to join others in another part of the house would make noise and cause fear.
Geri Zeldes said she was in “anxiety mode”, gathered with her husband and three children that night, between listening to family and students, trying to FaceTime with Jordyn and listening to the police scanner.
“I was crying at times because I was getting responses from students. They were tears of joy,” said Zeldes. “And then I was angry. I got angry at politics or culture.”
‘He injured thousands’
Michigan State University journalism professor Joe Grimm said he didn’t know the extent of the shooting until he woke up this morning.
“I felt like throwing up,” he said. “And so I just wondered, are we all so interconnected in this community. And we know so little.”
He didn’t know who had been hurt or connected with those who had been.
“These students are all victims of this terrible incident,” he said. “I mean, you might only hurt three or eight people, but he (the gunman) hurt thousands.”
Grimm said he was working on sending a note to students on Tuesday morning, warning them not to stress about assignments right now. What he expected them to do was call their families, call friends, and reach out to mental health professionals if they felt distress.
Shooting destroyed the sense of innocence
Nate Strauss, assistant director of the MSU Hillel Jewish Student Life Center, felt that his sense of innocence was gone.
“And I say innocence because I think in this country right now, people are desensitized to the impact that gun violence can have on a community until it happens very close to them,” Strauss said.
Strauss attended MSU and graduated in 2016. He never cared about anything like Monday.
He said he communicated with about 100 students on Monday, and every time someone responded to a message, a wave of relief washed over him.
On Tuesday, he wanted to focus on coming together to mourn.
“And just knowing that the healing process of that isn’t going to happen right away,” Strauss said. “It’s going to be very much a process.”
Feeling the need to be on campus
Judy and Tim Goth-Owens said they needed to be on campus by Tuesday morning.
“We’ve taken classes there all our lives,” said Judy Goth-Owens. “We are both MSU graduates and live on the same street. Just being here, near this building, felt important. It felt important to just get out and see the campus, kind of feel reassured that everything is still here and it’s another day.”
They said the shooting made them sad, especially for the students and their parents.
“I’ve taught at MSU for many years and I keep thinking these are somebody’s kids,” said Tim Goth-Owens. “You send them off to college, full of promise and hope and a bright future. Relying on that is a reasonably safe thing for people to do. It just leaves me devastated.”
quiet in the streets
Aaron Ituralde, a veteran, said he was driving home to the Flint area when he heard from friends that there was a shooting.
“I’m watching this from an hour away and I felt kind of helpless not being able to be there with my community right now,” he said. “But I understood that the safest place I was was away from the area.”
“I returned to East Lansing this morning to be able to be with our community and get back to campus, the moment I turned to Hagadorn it was a rush of emotion knowing that this is my community, this is my home, this is where I made memories. and fun times and good laughs – and now it’s just a dark feeling right now. It’s quiet on the streets,” said Ituralde.