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Chicago Spartans honor MSU mass shooting victims and survivors at candlelight vigil

February 19, 2023
Hundreds of Chicago residents gathered in support of the MSU community for a candlelit vigil organized by Chicago Spartans on Feb. 18, 2023. MSU alumni and supporters came to the Tree House in the city to mourn the loss of three fellow Spartans after a mass shooting took place on campus on Feb. 13, 2023.
Hundreds of Chicago residents gathered in support of the MSU community for a candlelit vigil organized by Chicago Spartans on Feb. 18, 2023. MSU alumni and supporters came to the Tree House in the city to mourn the loss of three fellow Spartans after a mass shooting took place on campus on Feb. 13, 2023. —
Photo by Audrey Richardson | The State News

For many, even those who live hundreds of miles away, East Lansing will always be considered home.

It was a somber Saturday evening in Chicago, Ill., nearly one week after the mass shooting on Michigan State University's campus on Monday, Feb. 13. MSU alumni south of Michigan gathered for a candlelight vigil in memory of Brian Fraser, Alexandria Verner, Arielle Anderson the five students injured and those who survived. 

"East Lansing is definitely home and you have that love for your home, and to see it attacked, just can't really put it into words," Chicago Spartans President Faith O'Brien said. "But having events like this, to see so many people come together ... It's just, it's really heartwarming."

O'Brien said she trusts the university's course of action and response in making the right decisions, especially as it relates to taking feedback from students. 

"I don't think anyone's ever a perfect response in a situation like this, but I hope that they're doing right by students and everyone," O'Brien said.

MSU 1989 graduate Paul Swanson was on campus in October 2022 to attend a March basketball game against Ohio State.  

"It's going to be a different mood on campus," Swanson said. 

chicagovigil_21823_AR003.JPG
MSU alumni Michele Munson Moskal writes a heartwarming note to Spartans at the Tree House during a candlelit vigil organized by Chicago Spartans on Feb. 18, 2023. The green hearts will be displayed in the MSU Union once it reopens after a mass shooting that took place on campus on Feb. 13, 2023.

Swanson said people around don't always understand the deep sense of community among Spartans, but the vigil is an opportunity for Spartans to talk about their feelings during a hard time. 

"It's been difficult individually and on our own to try to make sense of things," Swanson said. "Not everybody understood on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday what I was feeling, but to be able to come here and talk about that and see other alumni that are looking to do the same thing, collectively, hopefully everybody can kind of take a step forward."

Ellen Feinstein, a member of the Penn State Alumni Association Board, doesn't have a connection to the MSU.  But with a son in college, the mass shooting on MSU's campus was just too close to home, she said.

"We compete on the field," Feinstein said. "And we're rivals on the field, but there's no competing and rivalry when it comes to supporting each other in times like this."

Feinstein said she hopes awareness for gun safety, mental health and campus safety comes out of a gathering like this, because there have been many mass shootings already this year. 

Dawe, a 2018 MSU graduate and former member of the Union Activities Board, said she could still picture the office where her and her team would work, day in and day out.

"The building will never be the same for people (who graduated) years and years back, and current students," Dawe said. "The future will always be the place that (the shooting) happened.  And that feeling that all those people have to go through, any student that walks through that, just unimaginable." 

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