He said, “I go as I do every Monday, not thinking there will be violence or potential violence.” He is not sure if things can go back to “normal” in his class, which has been moved to a new building. “Now I work as if I’m going and help my students regain a sense of normalcy.”
Jillian Plant, a 20-year-old MSU student, was getting props and snacks from her writing professor in class on Monday, even though the class was half empty. “She was so sweet,” she said.
“It was really weird in general. I’m so glad I came back, everyone seemed really welcoming,” she said. “But she felt sad, and everyone else was going at a slower pace.”
Bloodstains were wiped away, but fear and grief lingered as students tried to reclaim a campus that had been turned into a crime scene. They were in and out of the buildings, some of them as if for the new purpose of witnessing the damage a man could do with a revolver.
They carried supplies and musical instruments. Talk about grades and schedules. They hung “strong Spartan” banners. But many seem to travel in groups, for convenience or safety.
For some, Monday’s duty was skipping class to attend a protest at the Capitol in Lansing, just a few miles from campus. Asha Denny, a 20-year-old psychology student, was setting up chairs and testing microphones ahead of the event with two other students, Maia Manuel and Gabby Payne.
This will be the second such protest. The first took place Wednesday, less than two full days after Monday night’s shooting. Asha was back at her home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, when the first sit-in protest took place. I texted Maya, who was in my psychology class, to help organize the second episode.
In an interview on the Capitol Steps, Denny said she and other members have plans to turn their fledgling organization into a nonprofit lobbying for gun control measures.
“I’m not in class because I don’t feel safe. Why would I go to class when a week ago I was hiding in my dorm room to hear ‘call, call, get off!’ and thought there was a shooter outside my door?” she asked. “Why would I go to class and take an exam when I’m still mourning?
“It doesn’t have to be like this. We’re a collective generation. We have generational trauma in terms of learning about the ABCs and then learning how to run away from a gunman. We learn math and then learn the names of our friends when we see them in the paper,” she said. “We’re just one. of names, but we’ll make sure we’re not one to forget.
“The message we are trying to send is that gun violence is an epidemic in America. It unfortunately hit close to home this time.”
Some of the students were longing for the normalcy that returning to the classroom was supposed to bring, and trying their best not to let the events of the past week take over. Safwat Ahnaf Aziz, a first-year electrical engineering student, is thousands of miles away from his family, which leads to a distinct kind of breakup.
Aziz was part of the crowd that ran out of Akers Hall during the gunman’s rampage.
“Where do they expect us to go? Going back to Bangladesh, which is 8,000 miles from here, it’s not that easy,” he said. “Housing was the only option for us.”
Over the weekend, he and his Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani friends gathered in Wixsum, Michigan, about 60 miles away, to play cricket, as they did every week. He has stopped spending so much time outside the dorm, and when he does, he doesn’t go it alone.
“After the accident, I usually avoid going anywhere alone. I usually go in groups like with my friends,” he said. “You can ask me why. I don’t know why. If I go with them, I feel safe.”
Aziz said the shooting continues to cause him anxiety, and he feels putting it behind him is the best way forward.
“I really don’t want to think about it,” he said. “Here’s the thing. This is how I deal.”
Olivia Gilsher, who was a student union member during the shooting, said she went to a vintage store to perk up her spirits over the weekend. When I got to the Michigan State Department, “the store clerk kept saying I can’t believe what happened, it’s so surreal, and I kept saying ‘I know, I know, I know,’ and I didn’t tell him I was there.”
Gilsher’s first meal on campus Sunday night was interrupted by thoughts of danger. “Just sitting and eating, especially the first time, was very exciting because that’s what I was doing when the shooting happened. So you think differently, so you’re more careful of where you are, where the doors are, or something is going to happen again.” .
“You ask too many what ifs.”
She said, “I feel like we’re in the Twilight Zone.”
“I’m sitting in my condo just staring at the walls. Thinking about what I need to do. There are so many things I need to do. I have to take a shower, I have to do laundry, I have to do my schoolwork,” she said. “It’s really weird and hard to do, and I’m not sure why.
“I’ll eventually get my work done. It’s not that I don’t want to do it or that I don’t feel like it. I can’t bring myself to open my laptop and I don’t know why,” she said.
She couldn’t bring herself to go to class on Monday.
Associate Professor Diaz Muñoz also found that trauma explodes in unexpected ways. He remembered going to the gym late at night the weekend after the shooting. This was the first time he left home.
He said that when a car with bright headlights approached, he felt “paranoid and scared” and began formulating an exit strategy. “I couldn’t see who was inside,” he said. “I was terrified. I thought what I was going to do.”
In the changing room, he was afraid that someone would take longer than usual to get dressed.
I was worried, I was imagining that person coming out with a gun and shooting me because I was in front of the entrance. So I walked … near the entrance.
Diaz-Muñoz, who spent his childhood in Costa Rica, said he doesn’t see Monday’s shooting as something that happened in a vacuum, but as a byproduct of living in America.
“I didn’t find the guilty party in that guy who did it. To me, that guy is a symptom of something that is structurally and systemically wrong.” And the people who maintain that set of laws that keep things from changing? I hold them accountable.”