Eventually things have to go back to normal. Students will come back to campus, classes will begin and memorials will be cleared away — but what then?
Thousands of flowers, notes and gifts were left for Brian Fraser, Alexandria Verner and Arielle Anderson on the night of Feb. 15, by the thousands of people gathered at The Rock on Farm Lane after the mass shooting at Michigan State University that Monday night. Four days later there were two men, taking them.
The two men were plant biology junior Jordan Zapata and collections assistant at the MSU Herbarium Matt Chansler.
“We wanted to pull these so that they can be preserved in perpetuity, before they're removed or anything else happens to them,” Chansler said.
Zapata came up with the idea for preservation on Wednesday night.
I'm always thinking about the herbarium, kind of,” Zapata said. “When I was leaving the vigil there was a flower on the steps in the parking garage, and then it came to me that we should probably do something to preserve some of the flowers.”
Part of the objective of the herbarium is to build a natural history collection for scientific purposes, but they are also preserved for historical and cultural purposes. The collection at Michigan State has specimens since before the University was founded.
For Zapata, the reason for preservation is clear.
“What it means to me is that we have more reminders that this happened,” Zapata said. “That we need to do something about it for the future.”
When the weather shifted and snow and ice covered the remnants of the vigil, the pair knew they would have to move quickly.
In between blowing warm air on their hands, they searched for flowers that had yet to be frozen over and pressed them on blotter paper.
“We just grabbed three different kinds of flowers,” Zapata said.
Just three. The rest of the flowers will remain, but eventually those will be gone too.
Chansler and Zapata headed back to their office in the Plant Biology building on campus to work.
They hope the flowers will have a home somewhere on campus so that the sentiment of the vigil and the spirit of the students lost can live on, long after the rest of the flowers are cleared from The Rock.
“I’ll try to arrange it in a way that's beautiful,” Chansler said. “Because once they're dry, they hold their shape like that forever … so that people will forever know what happened.”
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