EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan State University students continue to process Monday’s mass shooting, many are feeling uneasy about returning to campus next week.
Students have just begun to process this tragedy, and for those who have experienced this before, it’s only reopening their wounds.
Junior Sophia Miller was right across from Berkey Hall when the shooting started Monday night. As a graduate of Oxford High School — where four students were killed in a shooting in November of 2021 — she feared the worst.
“All I could think of was, ‘Not again,’” Miller said.
“(My roommate) said, ‘There’s an active shooter,’” Miller explained. “That’s when my heart sank into my toes. It’s an understatement to say it sank to my stomach, because it’s just kind of a rush of everything happening all over again.”
Now with three students dead and five more still in critical condition, she’s worried about going back to class next week.
“I can’t imagine anyone would feel safe in that situation,” Miller said. “I’m unsure about going back to school. I’m scared to back to campus 100%. But I also think we do need to be together.”
Miller said she’s felt helpless after yet another tragedy.
“The worst feeling, the same way I felt with Oxford, is helplessness,” Miller said. “There’s nothing we can do about what happened. It already happened. Students lost their lives. Students just like us. So now all we can do is be the community that we are. The Spartan community has each other backs.”
Michigan State students have the rest of the week off but are set to return on Monday. On Tuesday, Miller is supposed to have class in Berkey Hall.
“I can’t imagine sitting there or even walking in the building and not thinking of those that were injured and those that lost their lives doing the exact same thing that I’m doing, which is going to class, doing their jobs,” Miller said.
Ethan Macka, a senior from Grand Rapids, hasn’t left his apartment since the shooting.
“I’m nervous,” Macka said. “The mood is never going to be the same. The outlook is going to be a lot more depressing. The spirit is kind of gone.”
Macka expressed anxiety about returning to class next week.
“A lot of us are concerned for safety if this event will happen again,” Macka said. “We’re all just mourning right now.”
He said he’s especially concerned about the public being able to access school buildings.
“Anybody can come in and out of our academic halls and stuff,” Macka said. “If there’s a way for them to proof credentials before entering the building, (that) might help.”
Andy Kuo, a sophomore from Grand Rapids, is still on campus.
“Most of campus is home right now,” Kuo said. “Michigan State feel really quiet, and it’s a little eerie at moments.”
Kuo’s friends were running for their lives across campus.
“If this is just a casual thing that it happens over and over again, we shouldn’t have to live in a world like this,” Kuo said. “It’s a horrible feeling.”
Kuo said he’s on a “higher alert” now after the tragedy but doesn’t feel unsafe on campus.
“While there is a feeling of unsafety, I don’t think Michigan State is an unsafe place,” Kuo said.
Other students are afraid to return.
“I’m definitely not feeling comfortable,” junior Teanna Barnes said. “I’m feeling very uneasy about the idea of going back to big crowds and attending classes.”
Barnes said she’s worried about going in large lecture halls, often filled with more than a hundred students and few exits.
“Unfortunately, as a student in America, (I) am conditioned to, when I walk in a room, especially when I’m at school, think of exits,” Barnes said.
She often goes to the MSU Union, where the second shooting happened, to eat and study.
“I have a friend who was on her way to the Union and only turned around because she forgot her backpack,” Barnes said.
The night of the deadly shooting, Miller huddled with five of her roommates in her room, locking the doors and shutting off the lights.
“There was five of us in my bed with very minimal lights on,” Miller said. “We were just listening to the police scanner and terrified as to what was going to come.”
The school was locked down for nearly four hours before the shooter shot and killed himself when confronted by police nearly four miles from campus.
The time off school has also been difficult for students.
“It kind of forces us to sit and think about everything, which is hard because what can you do?” Miller said. “No one likes feeling helpless, and I think that’s the biggest thing that comes out of this emotion-wise.”
Students have only just begun to process what happened.
“It’s not even fully registered in my mind at all,” Kuo said. “I don’t know if it’s fully hit me yet. It’s just a lot to think about. Everyone’s still processing their emotions. It’s kind of overwhelming.”
“No one really has the words still,” Miller added. “I’d say the days have been getting worse. Things have been sinking in more.”
As students continue to deal with an unimaginable tragedy, some worry things will never be the same.
“It’s just getting used to that every single day,” Miller said. “This is our reality and things are changed. You have to make a new home out of our home.”
“You never think it’s going to be you until it’s you,” Kuo said. “And then it happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”