Written by Erin Conner
Our first week back at Defiance this fall has definitely been one for the books. Not only did we have six tornado touchdowns in our county, but we also had an active shooter incident.
On that Monday morning, my friend and I were the first ones in the cafeteria, just sitting down with our salads, when some woman we had never seen before came screaming into the cafeteria, “Get away from the windows!” We didn’t understand what was happening, but we followed instructions and went into the storage closet of the kitchen. I was shaken at the very beginning, but soon started cracking inappropriate jokes about the whole situation.
Everyone handles events of crisis differently. Some remain calm, some go into protection mode, and some just panic. I cope with bad humor.
But since everyone had a different experience, I thought I would ask what others experienced that Monday morning.
For others in Serrick, it was a similar story of confusion and miscommunication. Lindsay Aversa, freshman, said that her RA came into the cafeteria and said that there was an active shooter and to take cover. “We all filed into the kitchen,” she stated. “Nobody knew where to go, and all the workers didn’t know what was going on… so they filed us into the pantry, but the door didn’t lock.” She laughed, saying, “We were planning on eating [the] applesauce [in there.]” Obviously, she deals with stress the same way I do. “I felt like they should have informed us more about where the shooter was and just keep us updated,” she concluded. “I wasn’t too scared.”
Gabby Justice, junior, had a different story. She was also in Serrick with me, and she had mistaken the SWAT that was on campus for the actual shooter. “[The SWAT team] wasn’t dressed like the SWAT. They literally looked like two guys with black T-shirts with ginormous guns,” she defends herself, “so [when] somebody was yelling about an active shooter on campus, and I look out the window and see two guys with huge guns… I was like, ‘This is where I die.’”
Ali Behrendt was in Tenzer during the lockdown, and she said that things were much more calm there. “Before [the lockdown], I had music on, not really paying attention to anything that was going on. [I] went into the classroom and sat down, waiting for class to start, when a couple students came in, and all of a sudden everyone started getting their stuff and leaving the room. I was looking around, like, ‘What’s going on?’ so I just kind of followed everyone.” She said that it took awhile for them to actually get the warning email. “Half of us were watching videos on Netflix; the other half were on their phones, calling parents [and] checking emails… The most eventful thing that happened was that we saw the SWAT team walk by and we all rushed to the window to look.” She said everyone in her classroom was more fed up with waiting than anything. “We were all pretty calm. At first, there were a couple people crying, kind of freaking out, but after a little while, we were like, ‘Okay, when are we getting out of here? There’s nothing to do.’”
The story was a much different for those in Schauffler, the building right next to the intersection where the original shots were fired. Aaron Textor and Danielle Ferguson, both juniors, were in a classroom in Schauffler when the alert went out to the student body. “Our teacher just taught the entire class,” Aaron told me.
“I was in the back row, by the glass windows, and I was like, ‘Man, what if this guy just came and started shooting through the windows?’ I would have been dead.” She continued by saying that she didn’t really feel threatened. “They said that the police were on the scene.”
Danielle, in the same class, though very differently. “The professor didn’t really react at all. It was a students who had to close the windows and close the blinds, and we made sure the door was locked. He basically told us that it was no big deal [and] nothing was going to happen. [He] kept teaching, we took a quiz, and he taught for the rest of the class.” She stated that she wasn’t the only one who was concerned that morning. “I don’t think anyone was paying attention. Everyone was worried about the lockdown… We weren’t supposed to have our phones, [but] everyone had their phones out, messaging their parents. A lot of people’s parents were calling them.” She seemed quite shocked by the way her professor handled the situation. “Our professor allowed a guy to leave the classroom and come back in during the lockdown.” She laughed, and concluded, “It wasn’t the safest situation, for sure.”
Keira Grandey, senior, told me my personal favorite story that I had heard about the shooting. Keira was outside of Schauffler, on her way to pick up lunch at Subway, right across the street from the intersection where the shooter was. “I thought I heard a car backfiring. I heard two what I found out later were gunshots. I went to Subway, came back, [and] did some homework… I was sitting in the computer room, and one of the professors came, and said, ‘Hey, did you get the text? We’re going into lockdown.’” She said that the professor took her to his or her office, locked the door, and closed the blinds.
During this whole situation, I found myself wondering how the freshmen were handling this, with this being their first week of college and already enduring a tornado touchdown only a few days prior. Vincent LaMonte, a freshman, seemed to think the whole situation was actually kind of funny. He explained, “Miss Mercedes came out screaming at us to all get in a building, so [I sprinted] toward Pilgrim [Library], and I figured my instructor would be waiting for me… and apparently, like 30 seconds before I got there, they locked the doors and locked me out.” Figuring that Hubbard would be locked up, he decided to run the Dana next “…because that was the closest one to me… it’s already locked up.” He laughed at his own misery as he told his story. “Miss Mercedes comes running out, she goes, ‘Get your butts in here!’ so I dart across campus [to Hubbard]. That was fun,” he jokes. “It’s a good thing I run track.”
With Dana being the building that the shooter reportedly ran into, everyone seemed concerned about how the students and faculty in Dana were doing. Cassidy Santen, junior, stated that her classroom felt pretty relaxed. “…[H]alf of the class wasn’t in there,” she said. “Our professor didn’t want to start teaching because if he started teaching, then… he would have to reteach it.” She said that her class got into a conversation on Colin Kaepernick and Mr. T, before finding out that the suspect’s last known location was Dana. She said that they put a tourniquet on the door, but kept talking. “And [then] the SWAT team came in!” she stated, but that seemed to be the only exciting thing that happened that day in her opinion.
Zach Roush, senior, was also in Dana in Cassidy’s classroom. “I scooted my chair back by the wall and had my pen out, ready to attack the guy,” Zach said, as we all laughed and questioned his choice of weapon. “Of course, [I chose] my pen, it was the only thing I had!” He said that he wasn’t so sure that the shooter actually entered Dana. “Honestly, I was wearing gray shorts that day, so they could’ve seen me walking into Dana. I looked down and said, ‘Damn, wrong day to wear gray shorts.’”
However you deal with crisis situations, jokes or no jokes, I hope everyone found a way to cope. This was a strange or scary experience for everyone, regardless of how they handled it. Here’s to hoping we can learn from this experience and learn to be safer on campus.