‘It is OK not to be OK right now’
Updated, 2:56 p.m., 2/16/23
Two nights after Michigan State University’s campus was shattered by a mass shooting that killed three students and wounded five more, thousands of people gathered near The Rock to mourn and remember them.
Alexandria Verner, 20, of Clawson; Brian Fraser, 20, of Grosse Pointe; and Arielle Anderson, 19, of Harper Woods; were killed by a gunman on Monday night. Five students are hospitalized and are in critical condition, including Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez. The other students’ names have not been released.
Students, parents, staff and community members continued to stream in after the vigil began at 6 p.m. on a blustery Wednesday night while dusk fell. Some took a knee before the event began.
Council of Graduate Students President Hannah Jeffrey said she was “numb.” She began by remembering her fellow students who were born not that long ago.
“All I can see sometimes is teddy bears and blankets that swaddled those young victims when they were young,” Jeffrey said. “I can feel the warmth of the milk that awaited them in the microwave to help them go to sleep. Remember, everyone, that these problems affect our generation. And we are the new generation.”
Jeffrey also acknowledged that so many students are struggling right now.
“To my fellow students, my wonderful, amazing Spartans, it is OK to not be OK right now,” Jeffrey said. “This is our home and we went through the unimaginable. We lost three beautiful souls who we attend classes with, are friends with, are close with. Their absence on this campus and in this world will forever be felt.”
Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo echoed that sentiment.
“Whatever you’re feeling, it’s all valid,” he said. “Emotions are different for each and every person. I cry in front of my team; I cry on national TV. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. We all process trauma in different ways.”
Other speakers were MSU Board of Trustees Chair Rema Vassar, Interim President Teresa Woodruff, MSU student body President Jo Kovach and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Spartan alumna who had held her last 2022 campaign rally at her alma mater in November.
Both Whitmer and Izzo were visibly emotional during their speeches.
Whitmer said she was there as “governor, as the mom of two college kids, as a fellow Spartan and as a fellow Michigander.”
“Everyone remembers the excitement you feel during Welcome Week, cherishing the years on the banks of the Red Cedar [River],” she said. “We really, really love this place and you can see it in how we treat one other and how we show up for one another. And I think that’s what makes this moment so much more painful.”
Whitmer noted a number of recent mass shootings, including at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas; a parade in Highland Park, Ill.; and at Oxford High School in Southeast Michigan.
“There are students who lived through that [Oxford] — the worst day of their lives — only to go and experience this here,” Whitmer said. “There’s a student who lived through [the] Sandy Hook [Elementary shooting] as a child and re-lived that only two nights ago.”
She vowed action on gun reform, as many Democratic lawmakers did earlier in the day during and after a demonstration of MSU students at the Capitol.
Izzo also acknowledged the need to act on gun violence — which he called “insane right now” — and urged everyone to use their “platform.”
“I think everybody spoke that something needs to be done in our society,” he said. “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 through what these families are going through now.”
This story initially inaccurately attributed a quote said by Jeffrey.