Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Community members light three candles during a luminary vigil in memory of Brian Fraser, Arielle Anderson and Alexandria Verner, who were killed last year in a mass shooting on campus on Feb. 13, 2024.

MSU community gathers to reflect on one-year anniversary of campus shooting at remembrance event

The MSU community came together for a remembrance gathering last night to reflect on the one-year anniversary of the Feb. 13, 2023 campus mass shooting that killed three students, injured five students, and continues to affect the community. 

Many attendees wore "Spartan Strong" shirts and held glowing luminaries to pay their respects to the victims — Arielle Anderson, Alexandria Verner and Brian Fraser — and those seriously injured. 

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On Feb. 13, 2024, candles surrounding the Spartan Statue read the initials of the victims of the 2023 campus shooting – Alexandria Verner, Brian Fraser and Arielle Anderson. One year after the Michigan State University campus shooting, a remembrance ceremony was held to remember and reflect on the tragedy.

Before the event started, MSU students and alumni gathered around Spartan Statue, where flowers and luminaries were placed in remembrance of the victims. Members of Phi Delta Theta MSU chapter, which Fraser was president of, gathered to honor Fraser's life.

"The school handled it pretty well all things considered," MSU sophomore Aidan Verble said when describing the remembrance event the university planned.

Verble described what he experienced last year during the shooting, saying he placed himself in a room with a few workers, who called their relatives and expressed that they thought it might have been their last time speaking to them.

"I feel like I've definitely made progress," Verble said. "The first few months were pretty hard, like the first week coming back on campus." 

Verble said with the installation of locks to classroom doors, more can be installed around campus.

"I think everything else is good classroom-wise," Verble said. "I think the high schools do a better job with that than the university."

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Green-lit luminaries surround the Spartan Statue on Feb. 13, 2024. One year after the Michigan State University campus shooting, a remembrance ceremony was held to remember and reflect on the tragedy.

In a pre-recorded message, Associated Students of Michigan State University President Emily Hoyumpa expressed her thoughts on the event, stressing the importance of remembering those impacted not just today, but every day.

"Our hearts are heavy as we remember the students we lost that day," Hoyumpa said. "Their families and loved ones are in our thoughts not just today but always. We also remember those injured that night, as well as all those impacted by the tragedy that occurred on our campus last year."

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Flowers and a poster in remembrance of Alexandria Verner, one of the three victims of the 2023 campus shooting, surround the Spartan Statue. One year after the Michigan State University campus shooting, a remembrance ceremony was held to remember and reflect on the tragedy.

Hoyumpa said the remembrance ceremony, as well as the events and activities that were held earlier in the day, was an opportunity for members of the MSU community to reflect, grieve, remember and come together to support one another in the way that makes the most sense to them.

"We are all human at the end of the day and we are doing what we can to process everything that has happened," Hoyumpa said. "It's important to acknowledge that whatever you are felling is valid. There is no right way to reflect, but know that you are not alone and that your fellow Spartans will be here to lift you up during these difficult times."

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An MSU student places a green light into a row full of them on Feb. 13, 2024. One year after the Michigan State University campus shooting, a remembrance ceremony was held to remember and reflect on the tragedy.

After Hoyumpa's message, the alma mater, "MSU Shadows," commenced, followed by a moment of silence in honor of the victims. 

At 8:15 p.m., Beaumont Tower, which was lit up green, tolled twice in honor of Anderson and Verner.

At 8:25 p.m., the tower tolled again in honor of Fraser.

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The Beaumont Tower lights up green in memory of three lives lost last year during a mass shooting on campus on Feb. 13, 2024.

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Steve Cogan, an MSU class of 1984 alumnus said he made the four and half hour drive from his Toronto home to East Lansing to pay his respects for his alma mater, to the victims and their families and loved ones, and to personally reflect on how far the university has come in the year since the shooting. 

"I think it's very touching," Cogan said. "It seems to me the event is a free forum in the sense that people are allowed to express their grief and express their healing in their own way. It doesn't seem to me to be a rigidly organized event, and I think that works very well."

One year ago, Cogan first heard the news when he was at home and received a phone call from his wife. 

"My wife was driving home from choir practice and she called me and said 'you'd better turn on CNN,'" Cogan said. "I turned on the news and saw it escalate over the course of the night. We didn't know very much to begin with, and then we learned more and more about just how bad it was."

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Spartans and community members gather around the Spartan Statue on Feb. 13, 2024, after a luminary vigil honoring the students who were killed in a mass shooting on campus last year.

Cogan, who has visited campus yearly with family for over 40 years, said the university means "an awful lot" to him. Cogan said that prior to the one year anniversary, he expressed to his wife and daughters the importance of being on campus to support others and himself.

"I proposed to my wife at a Spartan football game," Cogan said. "This place means a lot to me and my family, and for it to have been wounded so grievously really hit home. It's gratifying to be here. It's not a happy occasion, but it means a lot to me to be here with my fellow Spartans." 

Cogan said even though the community feels wounded from what happened, the number of people present for the event who expressed themselves shows they're healing and they're stronger. 

"Gun violence in the United States and mental illness are just a terrible combination that need to be addressed on a social, political and economic level," Cogan said. "I'm looking forward to the permanent memorial for the students who died, and looking forward to the university moving out from the shadow and into brighter days."

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MSU students hold on to each other in front of the Spartan Statue on Feb. 13, 2024. One year after the Michigan State University campus shooting, a remembrance ceremony was held to remember and reflect on the tragedy.