Monday, May 20, 2024

2 students paint the Rock to honor lives lost in MSU shooting, cover pro-gun message

February 15, 2023
Sociology graduate student Kitty Groeller, chemistry junior Rylee Warner and creative advertising freshman Jasmyn Miller return flowers to the base of The Rock on Farm Lane, after painting over it on Feb. 15, 2023.
Sociology graduate student Kitty Groeller, chemistry junior Rylee Warner and creative advertising freshman Jasmyn Miller return flowers to the base of The Rock on Farm Lane, after painting over it on Feb. 15, 2023.

The Rock on Farm Lane is a campus landmark that is painted almost daily to represent the thoughts of community members. Before game days, the rock showcases rivalry and team spirit. During political unrest, the rock is painted over by those who want to share a message. 

By early Tuesday morning, the rock asked a question to those who walked by: "How many more?"

The message followed the mass shooting on campus Monday night that left three dead and five in critical condition. Community members placed flowers around the rock in honor of the three lives lost. 

By Wednesday morning, the rock had been repainted, stating, "Allow us to defend ourselves & carry on campus."

Sociology graduate student Kitty Groeller and chemistry junior Rylee Warne r— two students who had never met each other — saw the message and decided to cover it up. 

"I woke up this morning and heard about the Rock being painted over. And I understand that students are grieving. And we all grieve in different ways, but you can't force someone else to grieve in your way," Warner said. "Tradition is to not paint over it ... But tradition doesn't matter right now, what matters is are students grieving and taking their time."

When Groeller heard about the new message that had been painted on The Rock, her first thought that was the vigil that will be held Tuesday afternoon in front of it.

"I thought to myself, 'who's gonna paint this over?'" Groeller said. "And well, why not me?"

Warner arrived a few minutes before Groeller. She was struggling to cover the entire rock with a can of spray paint when Groeller walked down holding a bucket of black paint.

"Let's cover this," she said.

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Though Groller and Warner didn't plan on meeting each other to paint it, they said their meeting speaks to how everyone is feeling. 

"Everyone is grieving in some kind of way," Warner said. "We didn't really fall into that bystander thing of, 'someone else will do it, someone else will cover it up' ... But I'm glad that (Groeller) showed up because it means a lot that somebody else is thinking the same way I was."

Warner said she's been thinking a lot about community since the shooting. 

"I came back for grad school in 2019 and I've been here since. I'm a TA, I see students every day. Our department's in Berkey," Groeller said. "Our generation is the only generation that has grown up with fear of going to school, going to grocery stores ... we can't go anywhere that's supposed to be fun without looking for exits and it breaks my heart."

Warner and Groller painted a clean slate with black paint before deciding what they wanted the Rock to say next. 

Together the sat on the woodchips surrounding the Rock, waiting for the paint to dry. Soon they were joined by creative advertising freshman Jasmyn Miller.

The three drew on a notepad, finding the right words for the message they wanted to convey. They decided to honor community members they lost and the ones who are hurting.

The rock says: "To those we lost. To those healing. Brian. Arielle. Alexandria."

There will be a candlelight vigil at The Rock at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

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