HOW MANY MORE?
Content warning: Gun violence
Gail Bruce, CEO of HipSilver
As the founder and a contributor to HipSilver I have had the pleasure to working with a wonderful young man Nick Logan, first as an intern and now as my media assistant.
Last fall, I needed some help on the website and Nick introduced me to Hailey Schulte, his best friend, and a student at Michigan State University. She is now a wonderful addition to our team. On February 13th, Hailey suffered a night of fear and terror when a shooter entered her college campus and started killing people at MSU. I asked if she could write about her experience so other parents and grandparents like me could get an idea of what goes through the mind and emotions of the children, we love, that experience trauma.
Her story below also shines light on the importance of friends, family and making a difference. Thank you, Hailey, for sharing your very personal experience and suggesting where people can volunteer or donate to help stop the raising tide of gun violence.
February 13th 2023 8:32pm
Michigan State University Police report a “shots fired” incident occurring on or near the East Lansing campus. Secure-in-place immediately. Run, Hide, Fight. Run means…”
My mind flashes to the previous year where I turned off the lights and pulled down the blinds after a similar notification about a gunman in the apartment complex behind us.
Now, the reality of the current situation sets in when I make the brisk walk to my suite bathroom in my single dorm and hear my suitemate talking on the phone from the other side of her bathroom door.
“There’s a shooter in the Union.”
I’m not a stranger to gun violence. From drunken parental figures shooting at the sky, to a next-door neighbor shooting his own wife. I’m sure we all have very real, very awful personal experiences with gun violence. The type that never make the news but lives in the back of our heads until therapy drags it from its dark corner decades down the line.
February 13th 2023 8:37pm
I pride myself on being a calm, rational person, and it absolutely felt rational to be on the phone immediately with someone after what sounded like a very real school shooting. So, I said “yes” to the text I had just received from my best friend Nick “Oh my god do you want me to call you?” When we connect it only takes a minute or two for me to break down in tears on the floor of my tiny dorm - “I hate being here”.
Emotions can be brutal when they need to be, but they can also be quick. Fear is one that is both brutal and quick. It also likes to hide memories behind its smoke screen. All I remember is picking myself up off the floor when Nick tells me the shooter hadn’t been caught yet.
On campus, images were being shown of people with guns, reports of multiple shootings and general hysteria and panic as information spread like wildfire through texts and social media. Bombs were mentioned on the police scanner at one point. With over 200k people listening to the police scanner - information was getting around fast.
I close my blinds, I lock my door, and settle myself into what I figure is the best place in my room where a bullet is least likely to hit should it come from my door or my window. The situation is serious, and I’m scared, but I don’t fear for my life - yet.
We talked for 20 more minutes, then I reluctantly hang up on Nick when my dad calls.
February 13th 2023 9:06pm
Now I’m on the phone with my dad, who continues to ask questions and give updates. I can’t recall everything that happened from 9pm-10pm that night, but I know it’s the most terrified I have ever been.
My dad only tells me what I need to know. He answers my questions quickly, not giving more information than needed.
Was anyone hurt? Yes
Was anyone killed? Yes
Have they caught the person yet? No
Neither of us know how safe I am.
All my lights are now off, I’m trying my best to pretend no one is here. I’m hyper-aware that anyone in my dorm hallway can hear everything I’m saying through my door, so I talk quietly and quickly.
My dad only seems to catch half my sentences. I take a moment to pull the phone away from my ear, an action that feels incredibly heavy, and I check my texts.
The first one on my screen is from Nick “DO NOT leave your room.”
There are others, one from my childhood best friend. Plenty from my friends on campus. The texts leave me wondering if they know more about the situation than I do.
I pull the phone back up to my ear, and my dad asks if I know about IM East.
IM East is the gym I had planned on going to before I returned to my room for the night instead. It’s directly across the street from my dorm. There are serious reports of people injured, maybe dead. I hear loud bangs coming from the floor above me. I am convinced that the people around me are dying. I am convinced I will be one of them if I’m not careful.
So, I push the futon I was crying on just an hour ago to my door, talking calmly so as to not upset myself, while leaving a trail of months-old dust in its place.
I sit back in my spot, my dad still on the phone with me. He’s listening to the police scanner, my mom is screaming about something in the background, and I am trying to make sure my terror isn’t heard from the hallway.
I don’t remember much of what I said to my dad for the hour we were on the phone together, but one particular question my dad asked me came back to me a week after the incident.
“Do you know what DOA means?”
“... dead on arrival?”
I hadn’t heard anything happening in my dorm for a while, when the phone towers finally gave out and the call with my dad drops.
February 13th 2023 10:09pm
If there is one scene I won’t forget, it’s sitting on the floor of my dorm facing my window in darkness. The only noise was the helicopters. The only light was the search beams in the forest behind me. They went back and forth gracefully scanning our building and its surroundings. There were police officers in every building, something I was glad to know before the call dropped. But it still felt like having a limb severed, realizing just how alone I was in that moment. If push did come to shove, I was the only one who could have saved me.
I moved to the other side of my room, realizing it would be safer if the person emerged from the forest and started shooting at the dorm randomly. If a bullet came in through my window, it would enter diagonally, and I would be less likely to be hit where I was sitting now.
My brain started to work more efficiently at some point, so instead of hiding near glass, I hid in my bathroom, jumping over my futon to get there. Bathroom lights weren’t visible from outside of my window, so being in a place with light made me feel much better. I chugged water, I brought my phone charger in there, and I made the place a small fort.
I invited my suitemate to join me, but she informed me that she absolutely would not leave from under her bed - under any circumstances - until it was over.
Harm never came to our building, just paralyzing fear.
I tried recalling my dad to assure him I was alright, but it wouldn’t go through, so I called Nick again.
Nick did the same thing my dad did, giving me information as I needed or requested. As the hours went by I became more ok with knowing the full scope. At this time, we knew there was a shooting in Berkey hall and a shooting in the Union by the same person whose whereabouts were unknown. Three had died, more were critically injured.
Hindsight is a great equalizer after a stressful situation, but it’s important to realize that no one here knew how this would end. No one even knew where the shooter was until midnight, nearly 4 hours after it began.
What my peers, me, and the police don’t know in real time is that the shooter was a deranged man who lived in his dad’s basement just north of campus, around where I go grocery shopping every few weeks. He entered Berkey Hall, a class hall right on the edge of campus, at 8:18pm killing Arielle Anderson (19) and Alexandria Verner (20), along with giving life-altering wounds to 5 others.
He then walked three buildings down to the Union, a student hub with study lounges, a cafe, a dining hall, and plenty of student affairs offices, where I had been earlier that day. He entered the Union at 8:24pm, killing Brian Fraser (20).
The shooter then exited the building at 8:26pm and leaves campus, making his way back towards his house on foot. The first MSU Alert goes out at 8:30pm. He isn’t found until 11:49pm when officers approach him and he kills himself.
February 14th 2023 12:20am
I watched the press briefing with Nick, who promised to stay on the line with me until they officially announced the killer’s death. Rumors had been circulating for a little while, but I wanted to be sure he was dead. They announced it, and Nick left me to try and sleep before his work the next day.
I finally turned on a light in my dorm. I put my futon back and my first thought was how I was going to clean up once I got back from my parents' house. I didn’t know if I could sleep in my dorm anymore. I just wanted to go home. I tried to pack a bag at 1am but couldn’t. I called other friends who welcomed small-talk with me until 2am when I laid down in bed. I didn’t sleep until 4am, I was shocked I got any sleep at all.
I hastily packed a bag as soon as I woke up and embarked on a drive I barely remember. I was home for 5 days.
We at Michigan State University are very proud of our rock. It’s a big slab of Earth dug up when Grand River Avenue was paved and relocated to the center of campus. Anyone, anywhere, anytime can repaint the rock to say whatever they want it to say. The day after the shooting, in dark red paint it read “HOW MANY MORE? The rock and our Spartan Statue became a memorial. The amount of love and support was staggering, flowers surrounded the rock and the statue. People would bring more every day.
Classes resumed on Monday, signs around campus reminding us that we were loved.
March 15th 2023
I am writing this just over a month after the shooting occurred. Campus is back to “normal” - or figuring out its new normal. Doors to buildings now lock at 6pm sharp and you need an ID to enter any building past lockup. My classes changed the syllabus to make sure we’re not stressed out.
I think I’ve taken good care of myself. I’ve had more life issues since the shooting which tend to be at the top of my mind these days, but that fear is still there. I’m in therapy, but I find that the shooting has created a new ceiling of fears for me. I compare a lot of other things to how I felt that night and I can’t seem to stop doing that. I’m more kind to those I run into on campus now. I see my friends more.
But underlying all of that, there’s still a growing anger that I can’t and won’t shake until something changes. No one should have to go through what we went through, especially those in the Union or the classroom in Berkey or the families of the dead and injured victims. People from Oxford and Sandy Hook attend MSU. This is their second school shooting.
I can’t share everyone’s stories, I can only share mine, the emotions of which seem to mirror what many on-campus students were facing even away from Berkey and the Union. I wonder everyday if my generation has seen enough terror yet, or if we still count as the lazy and unmotivated internet generation.
One thing is for sure, this won’t stop until we make it stop.