Thousands gathered at The Rock on Farm Lane the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 15, to mourn the loss of three MSU students in a mass shooting on Michigan State University’s campus.
The event was headlined with speeches from elected officials and students, but most attendees arrived long before the speaking program. They stood in silence, interrupted only by the occasional “excuse me,” or “sorry” as people shuffled around to find their friends.
The Rock— a campus landmark painted over constantly with everything from political messages to sports-rivalry taunts— has been painted four times since the shooting. First with “How many more?” then briefly with “Allow us to defend ourselves & carry on campus,” which was quickly covered with “To those we lost. To those healing.," and finally by a Detroit-based artist who the university commissioned to write “Always a Spartan” followed by the names of the victims of the shooting.
In the minutes before the first speech, attendees lit candles distributed by representatives of the Associated Students of MSU, or ASMSU, and kneeled facing The Rock in a moment of shared grief.
The speakers began with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, followed by MSU Board of Trustees Chair Rema Vassar, Interim President Teresa Woodruff, Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo, and ASMSU President Jo Kovach and Council of Graduate Students President Hannah Jeffrey who represented the undergraduate and graduate student governments, respectively.
All speakers emphasized a need for change, saying the national regularity of these mass shooting events needs to end, but refrained from mentioning specific political issues or causes.
The proceedings also included songs performed by MSU students.
Woodruff spoke of bright futures taken from the three killed Monday evening, and her hopes for the recovery of the five students who remain in critical condition.
Izzo, who’s worked on MSU’s campus for 40 years through “many highs, and some lows,” said that he “can’t imagine” what students are feeling right now but encourages them to express it.
“Whatever you’re feeling it’s all valid,” Izzo said. “Emotions are different for each and every person. I cry in front of my team, I cry on national TV– don’t be afraid to show your emotions. We all process trauma in a very different way, I’m just glad we’re all here together tonight.