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'Survivor's guilt kind of kicks in': MSU student reflects on sheltering off campus during shooting

February 16, 2023
Photo courtesy of Tristin Gless
Photo courtesy of Tristin Gless —
Photo by Courtesy Photo | The State News

Kinesiology senior Tristin Gless heard the overwhelming sound of sirens first.

The sirens were followed by the chatter of her friends, who assumed it was just a fire.

Gless, along with many other students on Michigan State University’s campus and the surrounding area, discovered that this wasn’t the case. The sirens were coming from the scene of an active shooting — a shooting that left three students dead and five hospitalized with injuries. 

Gless was waiting for a weekly Spartan Ski Club meeting to start at 9 p.m. in the club’s house located on Cedar Street — about a three minute walk from Berkey Hall and the MSU Union.

After hearing the large police presence, Gless and her eight friends in the house turned on the police scanner. They didn’t sprint into action until they received an email alert from MSU at 8:35 p.m. that stated, “Run, Hide, Fight.”

And they did.

Gless’s friend from out of town was in Gless's apartment at Cedar Village. Gless decided she couldn't leave her friend there alone.

“I called her and said, ‘There is an active shooter on campus, I am coming to get you, get ready to run,'" Gless said in an email to The State News.

Gless went on foot to get her friend. She was told to drive her car or not go at all, but she couldn’t leave her friend alone.

Shock ran through her body.

“It kind of felt like a fever dream,” Gless said. “Like we were questioning like, is this a dream? Is this really happening? I think at that time, it was just so unknown what was going on. It was hard to feel anything.”

Gless brought her friend back to the Ski Club house because she thought it would be better to be around other people. The house was also further away from the shooting scene than her apartment.

They turned the scanner back on and barricaded inside. They locked the doors and propped chairs against door handles. They grabbed steak knives from the kitchen and held onto them for defense.

“I think listening to the scanner, I would have to agree it was it was more stressful due to all of the inaccurate, like the false calls coming in,” Gless said.

The police scanner and misinformation on social media added to Gless’s fear. To her, it seemed like there was more than one shooter and they were all around campus.

She relied on the MSU Police and Public Safety Twitter and press conferences for accurate information. Throughout the whole situation, Gless and her friends had an escape plan.

On the second floor of the house they were in, there was a balcony attached to a room.

“And our thought process, we were like, if anyone does come into the house, we can you know lock the room to the bedroom, lock the patio door,” Gless said. “But then you know, if worse comes to worse we all crawl up on the roof, try to jump down from the top floor of the house in some way if we needed if we needed to get away.”

Gless called her parents throughout the night to tell them that she was safe. Hearing her parents' voices was reassuring, she said. 

After midnight, following a second press conference which stated the shelter-in-place was lifted, Gless and her friend finally felt safe enough to leave.  She is mourning for the victims, the three dead and five still recovering.

“Our hearts go out to them,” Gless said. “We couldn't imagine their families knowing that they were never going to hold their student again and they trusted them to be safe in a place where they should be but I think Michigan State is a very safe campus. I've never felt unsafe on this campus. Survivor's guilt kind of kicks in of, why them why not me?”

Gless has experienced a lot of "survivor’s guilt," feeling guilty for being so afraid even though she was further off campus. 

“But we're Spartans for a reason,” Gless said. “And we'll get together. And we can, we can help each other heal from this.”


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