EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The East Lansing community is coming together to grieve the day after a gunman killed three people and injured five others on Michigan State University’s campus.
Tuesday night, the pews of Eastminster Presbyterian Church in East Lansing filled up as MSU students and the community prayed, sang and mourned together.
“There’s definitely a long way to go within this healing process and I think it’s going to be different for everyone,” said Madison Ball, a junior at Michigan State University.
Leaders with the church, located around a mile north of Michigan State’s campus, opened their doors throughout the day on Tuesday so that community members wouldn’t have to grieve alone.
“Whether their need is to talk, to pray, to cry,” said Neil Myer, UKIRK Presbyterian campus minister at MSU. “Whatever feeling is being felt, we just want to create space and be that presence in the community.”
Eastminster Presbyterian Church Pastor Kristin Stroble said often prayer is where healing begins.
“We want to come together tonight and start by gathering, by being angry, by being sad and grieving together,” Stroble said.
Eastminster Presbyterian Church in East Lansing is hosting a prayer vigil following last night’s mass shooting at Michigan State University.— Demetrios Sanders (@DSandersTV) February 15, 2023
The church is about a mile north of MSU’s campus. pic.twitter.com/n6dQUWHRTk
As deadly shootings continue to happen across the country and now at home, Stroble said now prayer must be transformed into action.
“We even included with our vigil some resources so people can write their elected officials so they can take action because we can’t let this keep happening,” Stroble said.
Students at MSU say the road ahead will be a challenging one and the community’s support means more than ever.
“As long as everyone has each other and is using resources to get the help they need, I think with the strong community everything will be OK,” Ball said.
Another vigil in East Lansing is planned for tomorrow night at 6 p.m. It will happen at the Rock on MSU’s campus.
STUDENT AT MAKESHIFT MEMORIAL: ‘I DON’T UNDERSTAND’
Students also left flowers on the campus Spartan statue and outside Berkey Hall Tuesday. Students who visited the Spartan statue in crowds said they were in shock and grieving, trying to understand what happened.
“I don’t understand why someone would come on to a college campus and kill a bunch of teenagers,” student Cathryn Johnson said. “I don’t know who is so evil to do that.”
Johnson went home Monday night after the shooting but came back to pick up a friend and wanted to take a moment to reflect at the statue. She brought flowers to lay as part of the makeshift memorial.
“I really just wanted to honor them (the victims) and pay my respects to them,” Johnson said. “I think it’s important to focus mainly on the victims and their families instead of the awful man who did this. I really just want to like honor them and keep the focus on them and all the people who are still in the hospital and still recovering because it’s going to be a long road to recovery for everyone.”
Students recalled a frightening night as police searched for the shooter.
“The fact that he was still out there and I didn’t know where he was,” Casey Gruber said.
She lives near Berkey Hall, where the first shots were fired around 8:20 p.m.
“I can see Berkey out my window, so I was in my dorm room at the time,” Gruber said. “Luckily, I didn’t hear anything about like what was actually happening but my main thing that I heard was the sirens just were going off.”
“It was overwhelming. Like I’ve never seen so many police cars, ambulances all in one spot,” she added.
As police searched the dorms, students hid, not knowing where the suspect might be.
“(I) barricaded my door, locked myself in my closet because I didn’t know where they were and it was so close to me,” Gruber said.
“I’m sure it will click to me in a few days that, oh, I could have been in a situation where I almost died,” student Matt Westendorp said.
Westendorp, who is from Hudsonville, was hiding in a library not far from the shootings.
“I was already in a conference room that had frosted windows and a door that could lock, so we just stayed in there got other students in with us and just hunkered down for the next few hours,” he said.
Rumors spread quickly as students listened to the scanners and became concerned the shooter was close by.
“It was all happening in north campus but all the calls were coming in that he was at this building and so we were all freaked out,” student Emma Carrier said. “(It now seems) crazy when he really in hindsight was never here to begin with.”
It was nearly four hours before the shooter shot and killed himself when confronted by police about four miles from campus.
Carrier said even after the all-clear was given, she was too afraid to spend the night alone. She went to spend the night with some friends in their room.
On Tuesday, the Rock was painted with the words, “How many more?”
“I can’t imagine losing a friend or a family member because of this and I don’t understand the pain that they’re going through, but I have my own pain and I feel for them,” Johnson said.