EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — It was an emotional night Wednesday as thousands of Spartans gathered to mourn the lives lost to gun violence and to hear from speakers who had messages of change, togetherness and resiliency.

Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner were killed Monday in the shooting on the Michigan State University campus Monday. Five other students were injured and all remained in critical condition at a Lansing hospital Wednesday.

Thousands gathered for Wednesday’s vigil at the Rock on campus as campus and state leaders took the podium to share messages of grief, words of encouragement and calls to action.

“We are gathered tonight, first of all, to remember those we have lost. Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser, Alexandria Verner. We are gathered tonight to pray for those who are hospitalized in recovery. We are gathered here tonight to comfort those who may have escaped physical injury but who are wounded in spirit. Finally, we are gathered here tonight so that we can care for one another,” said Rev. Curt Dwyer with Martin Luther Chapel in East Lansing.

Dwyer quoted part of Ecclesiastes 3: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to weep, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

“Tonight, is our time to mourn,” Dwyer said.

He encouraged students to seek help as they grieve.

“No matter how deep your grief is in this time, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, there will be a time to laugh and to dance. It may not be tonight, but we honor their lives by grieving and by laughing at the proper time. May God grant you peace in this day and always,” Dwyer said.

For a replay of the vigil, watch the video in the player below.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer then spoke.

“Tonight, I’m here as governor, as a mom of two college kids, as a fellow Spartan, as a fellow Michigander. We know that there’s no such thing, as a quiet, shy Spartan, right? We will take this moment and live the action in memory of those that we lost and those that are fighting for their lives,” she said.

“Our hearts break for those lives that were shattered by gun violence,” she said.

The governor called gun violence a “uniquely American problem,” pointing to past school shootings, including the shootings at Sandy Hook and Oxford High School.

“In our darkest moments, we need to find the light. Sometimes it’s in one another. We saw the light in the medical professionals at Sparrow who cared for victims. So many off-duty nurses and doctors showed up without being called they had to turn some of them away,” she said. “We saw that light in the law enforcement who rushed into harms way, putting their lives on the line to secure campus. Officers came from as far away as Oakland County — where Oxford is. We saw that light in MSU students. Countless Spartans were heroes, letting others into their dorms, barricading rooms, hiding in dark closets, holding each other’s hands, calling in tips.”

She said she spoke to a survivor who said a student saved his life by taking off his shirt and pressing on the survivor’s chest.

“The time for only prayers and thoughts is over,” she said, echoing her call for gun control during her State of the State address.

She said the Rock had said “how many more?” on Tuesday.

The Rock at MSU reads, "How many more?" on the day after a shooting killed three students and injured five others. (Feb. 14, 2023)
The Rock at MSU reads, “How many more?” on the day after a shooting killed three students and injured five others. (Feb. 14, 2023)

“How many more until we work on common sense reform?” she said. “We don’t know, but what we do know is we can’t continue to live like this.”

Whitmer said she spoke to the father of one of the victims, who said she had gone home the weekend before, talking about how much she loved MSU.

“She was exactly where she wanted to be. Society and this country has failed her and failed you,” Whitmer said.

Rema Vassar, the chair of the MSU Board of Trustees, spoke next. She said the board is there for the students to support them.

“Run, hide or fight. This was the alert that was given to all of Spartans across the campus,” Vassar said. “When I sent my baby here to MSU … I didn’t think she would get a message about how to keep her life.”

She called for the Spartan community to work to find solutions for gun violence.

“Do what you need to do to take care of yourselves. You have to love yourself first. But then you need to love each other. Love is more than three words mumbled before bed time. Love is sustained by action or power, and pattern of devotion in the things that we do for each other every day,” she said.

A singer then sang “Amazing Grace,” before MSU Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff spoke.

“Alexandria was noted for her engagement and kindness. Brian was a leader in our Greek community, and Arielle was headed toward a career of service as a physician,” Woodruff said. “As we enfold their family, friends and classmates in our united embrace, let us each honor their character and their dreams by making them part of our own. They will be Spartans forever.”

  • People gather at the Spartan statue on Michigan State University campus to walk to a vigil at the Rock. (Feb. 15, 2023)
  • Mourners walk between the Spartan statue on campus and the Rock for a vigil honoring the people killed in the shooting at Michigan State University. (Feb. 15, 2023)
  • People gather at the Spartan statue on Michigan State University campus to walk to a vigil at the Rock. (Feb. 15, 2023)
  • People gather at the Spartan statue on Michigan State University campus to walk to a vigil at the Rock. (Feb. 15, 2023)

MSU head basketball coach Tom Izzo spoke next.

“To the families of those who were senselessly taken from us, words seem so hallow right now. To the individuals currently fighting for their lives in the hospital and their families, we’re praying for you,” Izzo said.

Izzo said as a father of two Spartans, he can’t imagine what they’re going through.

The coach also thanked first responders, calling the law enforcement response “nothing short of remarkable.”

He challenged the community to do better at taking care of each other.

“COVID has led us to all feel a little more separate from one another. It drives me crazy. We need each other. For 40 years I’ve always believed that at Michigan State, we are at our own strongest when we are together,” he said.

He echoed the calls to respond to gun violence.

“Something has to be done in our society. Gun violence is insane right now. We all have a platform. Some are small, some are high, but we all have a platform. And I hope each and every one of you use your platform, to help others so other families don’t have to go what these families are going through now,” he said.

  • People gather for a vigil at Michigan State University on Feb. 15, 2023, to honor those killed and injured in a shooting on campus two days earlier. (Josh Sanchez/WLNS)
  • The Rock at Michigan State University shares the message, "Always a Spartan" with the names of the three students killed in the campus shooting. (Feb. 15, 2023)

Following Izzo were two student leaders.

“I am numb,” Hannah Jeffery, the president of the MSU Council of Graduate Students, said. “… Remember everyone, that these problems affect our generation. And we are the new generation. You have the power.”

“Communities as unique and special as ours are worth protecting,” Jeffery said, calling for action.

Jo Kovach, the undergraduate student body president, said “it is OK to not be OK right now.”

“This is our home, and we went through the unimageable. We lost three beautiful souls, who we attend classes with, are friends with, are in clubs with. Their absence on their campus and in this world will forever be felt,” Kovach said.

The vigil closed with the community singing “MSU Shadows.”

Along with the students who attended the vigil were members of the community who were there to offer their support.

“I prayed with probably 25 or 30 people just to say, ‘I’m with you, I’m hurting like you are, we’re in shock together, we’re sad, we’re grieving. But we believe that Jesus shows up most in the mess,'” Philip Rogers, a MSU alum, said.

“The community has been so strong,” another MSU alum, Samone Doyle, said. “Seeing all the people that have turned out today it’s just also so inspiring.”

A large cross was brought to the vigil as a symbol of faith. (Feb. 15, 2023)
A large cross was brought to the vigil as a symbol of faith. (Feb. 15, 2023)

A large cross was brought to the vigil as a symbol of faith. Support workers in attendance were marked with orange ribbons, and some pet owners brought emotional support animals to offer students support.

“I am a Ferris State alum and I work for GV,” said Ellie Ohm, who brought her dog to the vigil. “I just was thinking like, ‘What would I want if I were in the situation and it was my community?’ And for me, that’s just having a dog there and he’s got a very squishable face, so I figured we come and show up and whoever wants to say hi can say hi.”

The dogs offered comfort as students process the tragedy.

“With me having anxiety and depression … the dogs really help me with that emotionally,” student Kirsta Mendez said.

“(The dogs) improve our mood and it’s helpful for everyone. Everyone loves dogs hey are just pet owners that would go out of their way to help,” MSU student Nicholas Kurniauan said, adding the pet owners went out of their way to help.

Students left piles of flowers in front of the Rock. Fraternity Phi Delta Theta, of which one of the victims was president, left their flag.

Hundreds of people gathered before the vigil at the Spartan statue on campus, also covered in flowers, to walk together to the rock.

Michigan State Police provided security at the vigil, so that MSU Police and Public Safety officers could take the time with their community to grieve, according to campus police.

Earlier Wednesday, students led a sit-down demonstration at the state Capitol in Lansing, calling for stronger gun legislation.

MSU is offering counseling through its Counseling and Psychiatric Services program, which counselors are available at the Hannah Community Center.


Campuses throughout the state joined MSU in spirit Wednesday, hosting their own vigils and memorials. Central Michigan University held a vigil in the afternoon and Western Michigan University in the morning. Hundreds of students gathered at the University of Michigan campus. Hope College and Calvin University asked fans to wear green to Wednesday night’s basketball game.

At the home of the brown and gold, a sea of green and white and lighted candles inside the Bernhard Center shined support for their Spartan neighbors. Following a moment of silence, WMU President Edward Montgomery, who served as a faculty member at MSU for four years, encouraged students and staff to practice self-care and to lean on each other.

“As we mourn the MSU family, allow yourself the grace to feel whatever you may be feeling —whether that’d be distress, anxiety, melancholy — they’re all normal feelings,” Montgomery said. “I have friends, like many of you, colleagues who are there. They’re going through a lot right now. Their world, in many ways, has been shattered.”

Campus minister Rev. Kathleen Robertson King’s 18-year-old daughter, a first-year student at MSU, survived after hiding in a nearby hair salon, where she had an appointment. King preached to those grieving alongside her daughter to not just support each other but also treasure each other.

“May we know the presence and comfort of a loving power, either divine or within our own circles of community, that reminds us that wherever we stand in the mourning process, we do not stand alone,” King said.

Western Student Association President Cheng Kidd Sun, who organized the vigil, said he was up past 2 a.m. Monday after the shooting. He woke up hours later to many messages.

“I received a lot of emails and texts that we want to come together as a team, as a campus community… so I said, ‘Let’s just do this,'” Sun said.

As one of a few speakers at this morning’s vigil, Sun’s comments to his classmates and campus staff were brief.

“Let’s do something. If you look around each other, today we showed if we stand together and unite together, we as a campus community can move forward,” Sun said.

While he does not personally know anyone at MSU, Sun works with his counterpart in East Lansing.

This week, student body presidents from 15 public Michigan universities released a joint statement, calling for action from their campus administrations. According to Sun, they plan to send another one directly to state lawmakers and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The student body leaders will also meet at a conference at Central Michigan University next weekend to plan further action.

“We’re hoping to have that (as) a platform for us to discuss what our next steps and how do we stand in solidarity, take the momentum and push it for something, doing something at the very least,” Sun said.

Students at WMU were not the only ones calling for action.

“I hope after we have digested this, we do something about it. We don’t want to be here again,” Montgomery said to those at the vigil. “I ask you to think about what you could do to help change this condition, so that we don’t have any events like this at any other campus or arena in the near future.”

After her scare, King demanded that those who talk the talk walk the walk.

“An expression of ‘thoughts and prayers’ falls flat unless those thoughts and prayers grow feet in some of the ways they have in the MSU community, where people were offering strangers rides so they didn’t have to walk alone at 1 a.m., when police finally released people from their sheltering places,” King said.

— News 8’s Amanda Porter, Rachel Van Gilder and Demetrios Sanders contributed to this report.