Before Michigan State Shooting, Some Students Survived Sandy Hook and Oxford

EAST LANSING, Mich. — When gunfire erupted on the vast campus of Michigan State University late Monday, killing three students and injuring five others, many on campus felt chillingly familiar.

They were just kids when the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killed 26 students, teachers, and staff in 2012. Nine years later, the high school shooting. Oxford in a nearby town outside Detroit, killing four teenagers. .

Now, as young people, they’ve gone to college, and it’s happening again.

“It was bizarre,” said Emma Riddle, an 18-year-old freshman at Michigan State who was on campus on Monday and a senior at Oxford High during the shooting. “We just went through this 14 months ago. What’s happening?”

On Tuesday, the fifth anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.leaving 17 dead and 17 injured, the familiar rituals of grief, anger and disbelief resumed, a day after the shooting and the three-hour police manhunt on Monday night.

Authorities identified the three victims as Arielle Diamond Anderson, a sophomore from Harper Woods, Mich.; Brian Fraser, sophomore from Grosse Pointe, Mich.; and Alexandria Verner, a senior from Clawson, Mich.

Anderson, who enjoys roller skating and plays in Michigan State basketball games, is studying to become a doctor because she wants to help others, her grandfather, Dwayne Thomas, said in a phone interview. phone. “She is a living angel,” he said.

Mr. Fraser is the president of the Michigan state division of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, the organization said in a statement on Tuesday, calling him “a great friend to his Phi Delt brothers, the Greek community in Michigan, and the people he interacted with on campus.” His family members could not be immediately contacted.

Verner went to Clawson High School, where Billy Shellenbarger, superintendent of Clawson Public Schools, said she was a role model for players on the girls’ basketball team. She chose to attend Michigan State – her dream school, Mr. Shellenbarger said – to study forensics. “She was a game changer if you were friends with her, if you knew her,” he said. “She made you better.”

Officials said five students critically injured in the shooting remained hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday.

As of Monday, Gun Violence Archive Counted 67 mass shootings in the United States this year. The Archives, a nonprofit research organization, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are killed or injured.

The suspected Michigan gunman, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, had no apparent connection to the university, police said, and was carrying a threatening letter. schools in New Jersey.

Officials identified him as Anthony McRae, 43, who lived in nearby Lansing. He was found off campus after being described by the university’s police chief as “a vigilant citizen,” just 17 minutes after authorities released a photo of the suspect.

“We don’t know why he came to the school,” said Chris Rozman, interim deputy director of the university’s Police Department.

The threatening letter found in Mr. McRae’s pocket prompted school officials in Ewing Township, NJ, hundreds of miles away, to cancel classes on Tuesday. Mr McRae was related to Ewing but had not lived there for several years, the Ewing Township Police Department said in a statement.

Mr. Michael, 67, Mr. McRae’s father, said that his son’s behavior changed markedly after his mother’s death in 2020. Mr. McRae, his father said, became increasingly scruffy and rare. when leaving the bedroom.

He said his son lived briefly in a homeless shelter in Cincinnati. He has never been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and to the best of his knowledge, he is not on medication, he added.

However, police seized several guns from his son, the father said, at some point after he was charged in June 2019 with carrying a concealed weapon without a warrant. permission. His son pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and served 18 months of probation. But last summer, neighbors near the father’s home in Lansing were alarmed when his son opened fire in the backyard, a neighbor said.

Anthony McRae moved in with his parents in Lansing a few years ago, before his mother died after a lengthy illness and required a heart transplant. His mother’s death seemed to affect him a lot.

“He was constantly changing – becoming bitter,” the father said of his reaction to his mother’s death.

Democratic lawmakers in Michigan, who have a majority in the State Legislature, swore on Tuesday to introduce gun control measures. Winnie Brinks, majority leader in the Senate, said the Senate would soon act on the law “common sense,” although details of the proposals were not immediately clear.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said last month in her annual State speech that she supports measures to establish gun storage requirements and tighten background checks. for gun purchases.

For a generation of young Americans, mass shootings at schools or colleges once considered sanctuaries for study have become such a painful habit that some of them have experienced it. more than once in the early 20s. Those a few years older grew up with active shooting drills. Their younger counterparts have become multiple survivors of traumatic violence.

Even people who may not have lived through mass shootings often know those who have. A keen awareness of the possibility of gun violence has become a trademark of the adult generation who grew up after Columbine High School attack in 1999, which killed 12 students and a teacher, and reshaped the way Americans view mass shootings.

In Michigan State, students, faculty and neighbors were still in shock the day after the shooting. Teresa K. Woodruff, the school’s interim principal, said that classes will be canceled until Monday morning and other activities have been rescheduled.

Students who have experienced other shootings expressed skepticism and disgust on social media. In a video on TikTok, a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School on the day of the shooting said it was “incomprehensible” that she had lived through two mass shootings in 21 years. She declined to be interviewed.

“We can no longer just bring love and prayers,” she said in the video. “It needs to be the law. It needs to be acted upon.”

Alyssa Hadley Dunn, a professor of education at Michigan State until a month ago, said she taught another student who also survived the Sandy Hook shooting. That student wrote something for Dr. Dunn’s book about how educators should react after the days of a tragedy on campus.

“The people I teach not only survive active shooting drills and actual mass shootings, but we have to somehow prepare them to be the adults in the room when School shootings are inevitable,” Dr. Dunn, now director of teachers and associate professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Connecticut, said in a recent interview. phone, her voice cracked.

“I really think the generation that has grown up since Sandy Hook has struggled with completely different things that we can’t really understand unless we’re living in them,” she said.

Riddle, an Oxford High School graduate now in Michigan State, remembers hiding in the high school band room on the day of that 2021 shooting. On Monday night, she and her roommate blocked their dorm room door with a closet and their bathroom door with a basket, then hid under their desks.

She said: “I tried to make myself as small as possible.

She’s just starting to feel less overwhelmed by the big crowds again, she said, enjoying attending Michigan State football games but not quite ready to experience an indoor basketball game.

She said: ‘I’m starting to feel safe there, so it’s not a good feeling to have it disappear again. “I never thought I would have to text my loved ones or friends back to make sure they were okay.”

Spencer Ances, 18, a Michigan freshman from Southbury, Conn., next to Newtown, remembers being picked up from school after the Sandy Hook massacre. His generation is now so used to what to do in shootings, he said: “Lock the door. Barrier it. We don’t need advice on that.”

On Monday night, his mother asked him if he wanted to fly home, as classes were canceled all week and the Michigan State campus was empty on Tuesday. He said yes. The Sandy Hook shooting, more than 10 years ago, is no stranger to their minds.

He said: “She was like, ‘Again’. “The same.”

Report contributed by Sam’s Resurrection, Jacey Fortin, Jenny General, Amanda Holpuch, Mike Ives, Jesus Jimenez, Lauren McCarthy, James C. McKinley Jr., Kwame Opam, Anushka Patil, April Rubin, Emily Schmall, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Remy Tumin, John Yoon And Kim Yu Young. Susan C. Beach And Kitty Bennett Contributing research.


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