Patrick Sloan-Turner

A candlelight vigil was held on Feb. 18, 2023 at the Tree House bar and restaurant in River North, attended by many members and supporters of the Spartan community in Chicago.

‘Walking on campus will never feel the same’: MSU community grieves in the wake of tragic shooting

February 20, 2023

Students and community members at Michigan State University (MSU) are reeling from a shooting on Monday, Feb. 13 that killed three and injured five.

“My roommate and I barricaded the doors and saw what we could use as weapons around the room, while listening to the police scanner,” said MSU freshman Kushi Sulabelle. “We were ready to be evacuated at any moment, but also prepared to be stuck in our dorm until the morning. I was on FaceTime with my dad and sister. They refused to get off the call for those four hours. Even when I got off the call to check on my friends, they made sure that I would join back again.”

According to Sulabelle, the first security email about the shooting was sent at 8:35 p.m., 17 minutes after shots were initially fired. 

“My thoughts after the shooting was, ‘Again?’” Sulabelle said. “It is just too common. I have gone to too many vigils. At this point, it feels like I am asking ‘When is the next shooting?’”

Many MSU students are still coming to terms with the events that took place last Monday.

“Learning people were actually shot, and after the fact, learning I sat next to Alexandria [Verner], (one of the victims) in physics class, it was a bit surreal,” said MSU junior Kaiden Ditchman. “I didn’t know her well, but I interacted with her on multiple occasions in class.”

As MSU students received mass emails warning of the active shooting, the initial reaction for many was confusion. 

“At first I was in shock and disbelief when I saw the campus security messages,” said MSU junior Josh Pierre. “We have never seen an email like that before.”

Ditchman also held some disbelief when the emails were initially sent out, citing an email that was sent out warning students about gunshots that turned out to be the noise from a loud car.

A member of the MSU community listens to speakers at the vigil held by the Chicago Spartans on Feb 18. (Patrick Sloan-Turner)

The gunman, 43-year-old Anthony Dwayne McRae, roamed the MSU campus for four hours as students and faculty members barricaded doors and switched off lights in the nearest room where they could hide. At the end of the four hours, McRae died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Ditchman was hiding in a room with his roommates, windows shut and lights off, at the time of the shooting. 

“I was listening to the police scanner when it happened, and heard ‘When approached, the subject shot himself,’ or something along those lines, and my first reaction was we will never get a motive or a reason why he did what he did,” Ditchman said.

McRae had no confirmed affiliation with MSU, according to NBC. As of now, there is no known motive for the shooting.

The Spartans community is hosting fundraisers and vigils for the victims of the shooting. They are also organizing protests calling for new gun laws, according to Pierre.

On Saturday, Chicago Spartans hosted a candlelight vigil at Tree House bar and restaurant in River North. Around 200-300 people showed up, including current students, recent graduates and those who had graduated many years ago. Most people were wearing their MSU gear or the color green. 

As the vigil started, the lights in the room shifted to green, and some speakers from Chicago Spartans spoke, after which a moment of silence was held where all those in attendance lit their candles in solidarity with the victims.

At the end of the vigil, the crowd sang the MSU fight song, and flyers were passed out with QR codes to volunteer and donate in support of the victims.

After the vigil, the organizers played an MSU basketball game on the screens at the Tree House bar and restaurant.

One of those in attendance was Eshana Mistry, sophomore at MSU, who was on campus at the time of the shooting.

“I had my friend come into the room, we barricaded the door, and we were sitting there for what felt like an eternity, and I was texting all of my friends and my family, and I’m so thankful that everyone I know is safe and okay, but it was a terrifying experience,” Mistry said.

Mistry came home to Chicago last Monday, like many other MSU students, and wanted to show support for the victims and be surrounded by her fellow Spartans.

“I just wanted to pay my respects and be able to be with the community that everyone is supporting and loving,” Mistry said.

The MSU community has banded together in support of the victims of the shooting, and some students feel more bonded with the community now than they did before. 

“In such a heavy time, it is nice to see so many different members of the community supporting each other,” Sulabelle said. “People are just offering whatever they can — in time, money, companionship, food, services and so much more.”

Sulabelle feels bonded to her Spartans community, which makes coping with the shooting much more bearable.

“Even though it was nice to come home, I find myself wanting to go back to campus [as soon as possible], so I can be with my fellow Spartans,” Sulabelle said. “Also, this incident shows how far the community support expands. For example, seeing our rival school, University of Michigan, supporting Spartans at the basketball game is so sweet.”

Adjusting to campus life after this tragedy might be difficult for many MSU students and faculty.

“Walking on campus will never feel the same,” Ditchman said.

While the environment at MSU might be changed forever in the minds of some, many feel closer to their communities than ever before.

“We will slowly bounce back from this tragedy, it may take a while and things will never be the same, but I believe we’ll be stronger and the Spartan community will be closer than ever,” Pierre said.

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