Chrystal Savage, Managing Editor|
OCTOBER SECOND TWO-THOUSAND AND NINETEEN
SUNY ONEONTA, FIVE THIRTY POST MERIDIEM
A TIMELY WARNING
NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF STUDENTS
Sitting in my English Capstone class, in a circle, with my back to the door, Jordan Marchelle turned to me, and with a panicked look on her face whispered, “I just got an email from Oneonta.” I hate to admit that I immediately felt that I knew what she meant. I refreshed my email and told her I had “nothing.” Cutting off our professor, she then said, “I’m sorry to interrupt but-” and instantaneously there was agreeance that echoed amongst students. Immediately I stood up, fortunate enough to be in a building with locks and unfortunate enough to have been conditioned much of my young-adult life to do so. I pushed a little red button in on the door that I had never noticed, let alone knew how to use. A red light appeared, but only for a second. I turned off the overhead lights and looked at everyone looking at me and at one another. It is far from an understatement to say that we were dumbfounded; nonetheless, our instincts eventually kicked in. I then asked Marius Garin, another student sitting next to me, if he knew whether or not the door was locked. Millie Kaanan immediately came over and began to help. Still, our professor sat there, watching us take charge of a situation that seemed incomprehensible to him. As we struggled to determine whether or not we were in fact safely locked away from the rest of the world, Millie then began asking students, including myself, if she could close our laptops as the screens shone bright in the darkness. Our professor then came over, after what felt like a lifetime and suggested that we lock him out to test the door. After being unable to open the door, Millie let him back in. At some point during this time Millie’s friend Cortney Meo was in Seasons Cafe, begging for shelter. After being turned away, she made the long run upstairs and flew into our classroom. We relocked the door. As things became more and more blurry, more and more numb, more and more robotic, someone suggested that we move ourselves and our stuff away from the door. Scooping up all my belongings in my arms I made my way directly to the back corner of the room. Marius, Nathan Jabkowski, and likely a few other students realigned the desks. Nate then suggested that we move the podium in front of the door. We did not for fear of it giving away our location; nonetheless, we were reassured to learn that locks can be blown through. Breaths were shallow, eyes were wide and welled up with tears; this could be it. Where was the shooter? Where were the police? Where was the Goddamn common sense?
We sat and waited and waited and waited and heard a hundred stories from other students on campus. I texted my sister: “I love you guys/ Theres a shooter on campus they think/ I will keep you guys posted.” I texted my mom and my dad and my boyfriend that I love them and to “NOT” call me. I exchanged messages with my roommates and confirmed that they were all safe. As news came in we whispered to one another what it was we were learning. Names began to circulate and rumors grew. I heard everything from two freshmen were shot, to it was nothing, and everything in between. It could not be both “devastating” and “under control.” How could this be happening, at all? And then, after an eternity and a few steps in the hallway, a few low voices and a few slamming doors we got the “all clear.” Still we waited. After hearing the emergence of a body of voices, and not just a small minority, in the halls, peering out the window and seeing students on the sidewalk, we began to leave. Marius and I began leaving, talking about how there would be no work tonight when someone screamed. From the millisecond that can recall, people were being trampled on the staircase as students seeked out the nearest refuge. Marius took off and so did I. Going back to where I came from, Marius unsuccessfully tried another room before coming back. Going to shut the door I began saying “it was fake; it was fake” and Millie and Cortney came crashing through the doors again, sobbing. I pushed the lock in again and asked if everyone was here. About a minute later Nate said “Jordan.” In the mess of everything, it was nearly impossible to identify what was happening, let alone if everyone was safe. People began to cry. And again, just as we were before, people started calling and texting friends and family, the state and university police, and others. Local authorities assured us that we were safe and the situation was stable. Still I had texts pouring into my phone that there were gunshots heard in our building, although I did not hear them.
After the fact and comparing with other students on campus, I believe what happened is that the emergency alarm on top of Milne library had sounded, nearly an hour late. How could that happen? How did I not hear it? Emergency alerts need to be mandatory, not optional and alarms need to be placed in multiple locations on campus. What are the odds that, during a coffee rush at Starbucks in Hunt Union, they hear the alarm? How is it that students were told by professors to “run?” How is it that other faculty were frozen, unphased, or otherwise still attempted to proceed with class? How is it that some classes resumed after the lockdown? How is it that there’s a video that clearly depicts students standing by a classroom window, watching officers with high caliber weaponry pass other students openly walking throughout the halls during a “shelter in place?” How is this allowed to happen in America? How is this allowed to happen at my university? How is this allowed to happen? I was numb during the whole event, I was numb for hours after it, but I am not numb now. It hit me. Last night, I could have been shot and killed. Today I could have been dead–DEAD. No longer living, with no chance of ever having lived again, and for what? For someone else to suffer the same fate? I will not be a statistic, but I am not the exception I am sadly and in fact the rule. Ambulances flooded the open lot of the fire department; waiting–and that was about to be us. Say what you want about the threat. Say what you want about guns. Say what you want about politics. Say what you want about America. But I refuse to say nothing on your behalf. Just like me, you are not the exception, you are in fact, and sadly so, the rule. Just like me, you would have been terrified if you had any common sense, knew anything about current events, or were educated at all in terms of the issue at hand. You were and are not and I am sorry for you.
My final thoughts: Things need to drastically change on this campus and in this country, and if they don’t and they don’t today the emails we will be receiving will be that of “sorry for your loss” and not “sorry for the inconvenience.”
Please sign the following petition to affect change on both the SUNY Oneonta campus and others around the country: http://chng.it/wf7MSLx6bX