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Margaret Vandermark, Location: MSU Union

The question I am getting the most is: Are you okay? Every time I am asked this, I break a little more and my rope is so close to entirely snapping. I respond with I’m holding up but that’s all I can say without yelling, crying, or leaving. I am angry. I am sad. I am confused. I am tired.


On Monday, I had a horrible day. I had battled stupid people trying to get on my nerves and I absolutely could not get any work done. I was so excited to go to my UAB meeting. This club I was barely active in, but it was always there when I wanted to go. I wanted to go Monday and so I did with my bestie. We got there early and even though we did not know everyone else as much as they knew each other, they always initiated conversations. This is beginning to sound like an obituary for UAB, and it is not. But I had some good times that night.


Five minutes before anything went down, we heard movement above us and made a joke about ballroom dancing. Then I heard someone running and I laughed and asked who brought their kid in the union? I was about to leave with my friend but there was a little more to clean up. We stayed behind and then that’s when a member came rushing back into the room claiming there could be an active shooter in the building. After the weird looks he received, he once again said the same but shut the doors, locked them, told everyone to get down, and turned off the light. I didn’t know what was going on, the reactions from everyone were across the map. Shaking, crying, staring blankly, looking around, helping, everything but nothing was being done.


As a person who couldn’t have fathomed this happening to them, I was in shock. So, I sat on the floor holding my friend and soon grabbed the person next to me to try to soothe them. I kept on repeating that they were going to be fine. I didn’t know that, in fact, I thought we were all going to die to be frank. But I kept on repeating this mantra in hopes that it would manifest itself, which sadly it has not, even though there were no physical injuries in the room. I remember silence and alarms and running. Maybe all that I remember in terms of noise was the constant starting and stopping of alarms.


I had never thought of what I would do in this case. Who would I text? Would I document? Would I cry? Sadly, I knew that my parents would be at a concert that night, but after a minute of contemplation, I decided that if I was going to die that night, I must tell my parents that I love them. I did. The response: not funny - my dad. I insisted and soon began texting them constantly with updates on what I saw, what I heard, and where I was.


One UAB member who basically saved us all, then called 911 to come get us. The police banged on the door soon after and I thought that I was either going to be done or done. Meaning that was either not the police and I was about to get shot, or this would all be over, and I could go to sleep. I was wrong. They came in, had us put their hands up, get in a single file line, and walk through the active crime scene that was the union. As we were run walking, I saw the UAB cutout of Izzo and briefly thought it was the shooter. I continued out the Grand River entrance - the same one that my friend after the fact sadly had to see a video of the dead victim being taken out from.


Outside of the building there was one police officer in the bushes. Where do we go? We asked over and over and over. They blankly stared at us. We crossed the street over to Campbell and begged to be let in - or at least that was how it felt. We were in. Then we were in a dark hallway where I cried to my mom. Where everyone cried to their parents. We sat and listened to the broadcast hoping that there was no one near that could harm us. Sadly, misinformation was constant throughout the night, and I knew someone everywhere where the murderer was claiming to be going, even though he wasn’t.


I remember hearing Campbell and thinking that this is no way to go out, as if any of this is any way to go out. Why did I know what to do? Why was this normal? But we got to go to a friend's dorm in Campbell where we remained until the stay in place was lifted. That was the longest time of my life and all I knew was that I wanted it all to be over. But it kept up and I was in the most constant fear for hours upon hours. Eventually, when things were lifted, we left the silent room.


I tried to get my stuff back from the union, but before I was across the street, I was yelled at by members of the FBI. I was not getting my stuff back. I went back in and established a plan for going home with my friend. When it was executed, everything was expected except the shock factor. I was alarmed by the number of cars, the army, the FBI, the helicopters, the car tracks throughout our beautiful green spaces, and the news. I was more so in shock of what had just happened. I had the privilege of going home to my parents at 2:30 that night. I cannot fathom how hard it must have been for those who could not, especially those families who had just heard the news that their child could never come back.


I am home now, and I have been since. I have heard many I’m sorry, many are you okay, many of every expected response to someone having just been a victim of a mass shooting. The hardest part is not being at home anywhere anymore. My new home, with my fellow Spartans, has been tainted forever. And my old home, Ann Arbor, is filled with people questioning me about my experience. So no, I am not okay. I will not be okay. Nothing can make this okay. This is not an okay situation, and I will never ever be an okay person. I am scared that I am forever messed up and am terrified of how I will feel coming back on to campus with a lot of people who all think the same of themselves.


Today I am afraid of toys that sound like sirens at the mall. Today I am afraid of large groups. Today I am afraid of ever having fun. Today I am afraid of my friendship dynamics. Today I am afraid of going into the union. Today I am afraid of everything. I am not okay, and no one should be.


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