I was in IM West, playing frisbee with my Ultimate Frisbee club, when the events unfolded. There were only nine of us that night and we were all in good spirits having a great practice. We’d been in the middle of a drill when one of the girls on my team got a text saying there was an active shooter in Berkey.
We stopped for a moment, shocked but not too concerned. Police warnings about shoot-outs and muggings in East Lansing are common. This was probably one of those. We kept playing, until she got the text that he was in the Union. The realization that this was more than a petty, outside crime hit. Our coach and captains told us to text and call whoever we needed to, and then to keep playing; they didn’t want us to start panicking. I texted my boyfriend. He didn’t answer. I called him and texted him again. Still no response. I called my parents and told them there was an active shooter on campus, but I was safe in the Turf room of IM West. I was getting really worried about my boyfriend.
Some of the girls started a half-hearted scrimmage, others stayed on the side-lines, frantically texting. I sat by my closest friend and found her desperately texting another friend who was in Berkey hall. My close friend started sobbing as our other friend texted us that she could hear screaming and gunshots, saying she was scared and loved us. That’s when the fear set in. I hugged my close friend and tried to comfort her. The other girls gave up scrimmaging and gathered by us on the sidelines. Something that people have a hard time grasping is the number of rumors that were spreading about the shooting, and the fact that we believed every single one of them.
We tuned into the police scanner and listened as reports of dead and injured flowed out. Reports that the shooter was nowhere to be found. Reports that there were four shooters, no one, no three. Three shooters and they were all over campus. I called my parents again and told them what was unfolding. My boyfriend finally responded, he’d been playing video games and wasn’t checking his phone. I breathed a sigh of relief and told him to barricade the room.
We were in the turf room for thirty minutes, all of which were a blur of text messages, phone calls, and the hazy voice on the police scanner. Someone got us and hustled us into the main gym area of IM West, where we were corralled with over 200 other people. This is where I spent the next four hours. Four hours of terror. Four hours of rumors. Four hours of believing we were going to die.
A few things stick out to me during this time. A rumor spread of the shooters being in East neighborhood, where my boyfriend and closest friends live. They texted that they could hear screaming, sirens, and that they loved me. They texted me goodbye. I broke down. Then a rumor spread that the shooters were heading towards us. I texted my friends and family that I was scared, that I loved them, and goodbye. People covered the thin windows of the exit doors with green gym paper and band-aids.
The worst moment was when there was rattling at the gym door, and all 200 people went dead silent and froze. Somebody dropped a dumbbell, and I thought it was a gunshot. This was the end, and I felt at peace because the last text my loved ones would get from me was that I loved them. Later we learned that the rattling at the door was a police officer checking to see that the door was locked.
We were in the gym for nearly two more hours after that. Then we could go. It was over. We stepped out of the windowless gym to a world of blue and red. Cops cars, ambulances, helicopters, and crowds of people drifting like ghosts. I got dropped off directly at my boyfriend’s dorm, and I spent the night on his futon in my sweaty uniform.