The terror thousands of students felt Monday was evident in text messages to parents, social media posts and 911 calls.
EAST LANSING, MI. – They broke the windows to escape, barricaded the door and hid under the blankets. They silenced their phones – for hours afraid to make even the slightest sound while the police searched for the gunman, who had already three students were killed and five were seriously injured on the campus of Michigan State University.
The terror that gripped thousands of students — some of them survivors of the second mass shooting — was evident in text messages to parents, social media posts and 911 calls.
It started around 20:30 Monday when Anthony McRae, a 43-year-old man with a history of gun violations, opened fire inside the academic building and student union.
Alerts sent out to students urged them to “run, hide, fight” and video showed them fleeing as police charged into the chaos. The massive search that followed ended about three hours later when McRae fatally shot himself in a confrontation with police a few miles from campus, officials said Tuesday.
McRae was neither a student nor an employee of the university. The motive is a mystery.
Jaclyn Matthews, a member of the Michigan State rowing team, was on all fours for so long when the Sandy Hook school shooting broke out that her back was permanently damaged. Now, a decade later, the 21-year-old international law major watched the chaos outside her campus window, stunned to find herself here again.
“The fact that this is the second mass shooting that I’ve lived through is beyond me,” she said in a TikTok video she recorded early this morning demanding legislative action. “We cannot allow this to happen any longer. We can no longer calm down.”
She was not the only survivor of the second mass shooting. Jennifer Mancini told the Detroit Free Press that her daughter also survived November 2021 A shooting at Oxford High School in southeast Michigan left four students dead. Now a freshman at Michigan State, her daughter was injured again.
“I can’t believe this is happening again,” said Mancini, who did not want her daughter’s name used.
Others across campus experienced the terror for the first time.
Ted Zimba, a 26-year-old astrophysics major, said he was returning to his dorm after an off-campus meeting when he saw police cars everywhere and a bloodied woman hiding behind a car. She told him that someone walked into her classroom and started shooting.
“Her hands were completely covered in blood. It was on her pants and shoes,” he told the Associated Press. “She said, ‘This is my friend’s blood.'”
It was then, according to him, that it hit him: “There was a real shooting, a mass shooting.”
The woman took the phone and started crying, not knowing what happened to her friend. Zimba spent the next three hours sitting on the corner of his Toyota SUV with a blanket draped over him.
In a nearby dorm, Kara Tanski said she spent two hours “crunching under the table, crying, thinking I was literally going to die.”
The 22-year-old resident assistant said about 40 freshmen relied on her, social media and police scanners for updates during the lockdown. From empty bomb threats to false information about the shooter, the updates were sometimes wrong and added to the “mass hysteria” of the night, Tansky said.
About half a mile east of campus, junior Aedan Kelly hid with his roommate, locking the doors and closing the windows.
“It’s all very scary. And then all these people are texting me asking if I’m okay, which is mind-blowing,” he said.
Ryan Kunkel, 22, said he and his classmates turned off the lights and acted like “there was a shooter outside the door.” For more than four hours, while they waited, “nobody said anything,” he recalled. .
“It should be a place where I come, learn and improve. Instead, the students suffered.”
Dominik Molotsky said he was in a Cuban history lesson when he and other students heard a gunshot right outside the classroom. He told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that seconds later, the gunman entered the classroom and fired three or four more rounds while the students took cover.
“After that we broke the window and I got out and then booked him back to my flat,” he said.
Sophomore Claire Papoulias told NBC’s “Today Show” that she was listening to a history lecture when she heard gunshots and fell to the floor.
“At that moment,” she said, “I thought I was going to die, I was so scared.”
She said she quietly called her mother while her classmates opened the window and helped people jump out to safety. Stepping outside, she grabbed her backpack and phone.
“And I remember,” she said, “I was just running for my life.”
Sophomores Jake Doohan and Nicole Stark were leaving campus when they heard the shooting and took cover by blocking the door with a dresser.
With the blinds closed so “not a single speck of light could get out,” Stark said she felt like they were watching the news as if “it wasn’t really happening to us.”
The senselessness of it stunned Doohan.
“It’s sad to think,” he said, “that such things would happen out of the blue to anyone, anywhere.”
John and Rona Shiddick, who both graduated from Michigan State University, left flowers on campus Tuesday after spending the previous night hiding as emergency vehicles drove past their home.
As a high school teacher, Rona Shiddick spent years practicing “Run, Hide, Fight.” But she added: “It’s quite shocking to actually be involved in it.” For her husband, the flowers were a way to let the families of the victims know that they cared, that they were praying.
“It was really hard,” he said, getting emotional.
Hollingsworth reported from Kansas City, Missouri. Associated Press writers Rick Callahan in Indianapolis, Ed White and Corey Williams in Detroit and Frieda Frisar in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed to this report.