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Spartans memorialize lost classmates in campus-wide vigils

February 14, 2023
<p>Political science senior Caleb Christensen delivers flowers to The Rock on Farm Lane on Feb. 14, 2023, one day after the mass shooting in Michigan State University's North Neighborhood.</p>

Political science senior Caleb Christensen delivers flowers to The Rock on Farm Lane on Feb. 14, 2023, one day after the mass shooting in Michigan State University's North Neighborhood.

Students arrived on campus on Feb. 14, bouquets in hand - but the flowers weren’t for their valentines

On this Valentine’s Day, there was no sense of normalcy

The streets on campus were quiet, a majority of the cars were media outlets or police vehicles. And the flowers? For Brian Fraser, Alexandria Verner and Arielle Anderson, the three students who were killed, and the five unnamed students who were seriously injured, in the mass shooting at Michigan State University the night before.

“I just think Michigan State for so many people is a home and a safe place and to have something like this happen is so hard,” business junior Katy James said. “It doesn’t feel real.”

James was one of the many students who made a trip to the Spartan statue to leave flowers and show support. The night before— the night of the shooting— she was driving home when she started to see police cars driving in all different directions.

 “We had no idea what was going on and we just feel so blessed to still be here,” James said. “Our hearts go out to the people who don’t get to go home today.”

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Natural science freshman Tyler Stantz was on-campus, in his girlfriend’s dorm in Yakeley Hall, when the two started to hear sirens. Once he received the notification from MSU, they turned the dorm lights off, barricaded the door and laid on the floor.

“We were listening to the dispatch and couldn’t tell what was real… we weren’t sure what to believe,” Stantz said. “We made sure to just stay quiet and be there for each other through the hard times.”

Stantz originally bought the flowers for his girlfriend, but said because it was such a difficult time for the community he wanted to honor the moment.

Political science senior Caleb Christensen did the same. While he was at Target picking up a pre-ordered arrangement, he saw a group of roses and took them to the Rock on Farm Lane where another memorial stood.

“I saw a bouquet in their premade area,” Christensen said. “It was just eight individual flowers on their own.”

Eight flowers, one for each student injured or killed.

“I wasn’t getting emotional until I got here,” student teacher Traxel Jirgens said. “I just wanted to show support for everybody. Whatever you’re feeling, it's okay, however you deal with it is okay as well.”

Some students have gone home, others are still in their dorms or off-campus apartments, many are still processing their emotions

James Madison freshman Kathryn Johnson wasn’t on campus and was left to check on her friends through text. She said she is still processing what happened.

“Angry, but also just heartbroken,” Johnson said. “You never think it's gonna happen to you until it does.”

Biomedical laboratory science Junior Alyssa Murphy was alone in her dorm but had a friend who was in the Union. Murphy worked to stay calm and communicated with the friend through text.

“The time between me texting and them not texting back was nerve racking,” Murphy said. “No one should ever have to go through this and it's honestly scary to even go back to classes because I had class in Berkey earlier… Everything's still kind of sinking in. So very surreal, really scary.”

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Other students expressed this concern while visiting the growing memorials. As of now, MSU has canceled all classes until Feb. 20.

“We can’t just go back and study in the Union like people didn’t die there,” Public Policy sophomore Matt Ritter said.

Human biology junior Jillian Isaac was up all night after leaving campus before getting the notification, “You’re up all night, there’s no sleep, there’s nothing.” 

“We don’t know how we’re going to walk on this campus and go to classes in the same halls that people were getting shot at," Isaac said.

MSU has provided psychiatric services for students and faculty. Many professors have begun reaching out to their classes and amending syllabuses to lighten their students’ load.

Whether the path forward marks a return to online options, increased security or different conversations, the Spartan community is rallying behind one another. A GoFundMe has been started to aid the families dealing with loss and vigils have been planned on campus and throughout the community.

“I don't know who the victims are… I only know that part of their identity is being Spartan,” Christensen said. “And our community is so much about that - we're all different walks of life, we're all different people, but at the end of the day, we're all Spartans.”

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