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'I’ve never felt as scared and helpless in my entire life': A parent’s perspective

February 15, 2023
<p>Michigan State University business freshman Matthew Bowersock hugs his mother, Mary, as they pay their respects to the victims of the mass shooting at Michigan State University on Feb. 14, 2023, at The Rock on Farm Lane.</p>

Michigan State University business freshman Matthew Bowersock hugs his mother, Mary, as they pay their respects to the victims of the mass shooting at Michigan State University on Feb. 14, 2023, at The Rock on Farm Lane.

As a shooter killed three students and left five more in critical condition on Michigan State University’s campus Monday evening, Eric Swanson and his wife were doing dishes in their Midland home. He opened his phone where he found an alert from MSUPD.

When he saw the phrase “Run, Hide, Fight,” he instantly knew it was serious and called his daughter Alexa.

She was with friends, inside a study room in her residence hall. They had just received the same alert and were jumping into action. Before long they were back in a dorm room, barricaded the door, turned off the lights and were hiding away from the window.

Eric Swanson said he was surprised by her preparedness. Alexa Swanson told him “we’ve been learning this stuff since we were five.”

Eric Swanson was impacted by her readiness, “because of course when I was five, that's not something we were learning.”

“There was a shocking aspect to it, not to say she wasn't scared, but that she's like, ‘Oh, I know what to do,’” Eric Swanson said.

“It just seemed so second nature to her,” Eric Swanson said. “…I was shocked by just how immediately she and her friend stepped into it, because they're like, ‘Well, yeah, we've been learning this for most of our lives.’ I'll be honest, that broke my heart.”

Eric Swanson and his daughter spent the next four hours sporadically texting, calling, and FaceTiming. They were both paying close attention to the unverified chatter on the police scanner. Swanson said he now “can’t decide if that was a good or bad idea.”

Sitting over an hour away from MSU, as first responders spent hours attempting to find the shooter on campus, Eric Swanson and his wife felt helpless.

His daughter came home the next day, hoping to see her parents and dogs. Since then, Swanson and his wife have been discussing how they’ll feel comfortable when she goes back to campus. Eric Swanson said “realistically, I know it’s safe,” but there’s a “pit in my stomach, wondering.”

“I think the parents need to remember they need time to heal too,” Eric Swanson said. “This was the biggest panic attack most of us have ever had. I've told friends that I’ve never felt as scared and helpless in my entire life as I did during those hours, and as much as we need to be there for our kids, we need to heal too.”

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