“Spartans cry, Spartans hug one another”: Students gather at Lansing Capitol instead of attending the first day of classes since mass shooting


Student holding sign during protest at the Lansing Capitol building on 2/20 Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Delaney Rogers, Station Manager

It has been one week since the mass shooting at Michigan State University. Classes returned to normal on Monday. Some students are experiencing elevated levels of anxiety and anger as routines resume. 

Community members and students gathered at the Lansing Capitol today to participate in a sit-in protest. Hundreds of students were gathered on the front lawn, carrying signs and skipping class. 

Capitol building during protest on February 20 | Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Maya Manuel, a primary figure for these protests, once again led the event. She asked the crowd how many students did not feel ready to return to classes and almost every person raised their hands. 

The crowd listened as speakers approached the microphone and vocalized the emotions that have become familiar, and instilled in students. One student shared the feeling of sorrow that backpacks are no longer filled with books, but flowers for their classmates whose lives were lost.

A poem was read about the frustration that classrooms have now become battlegrounds, and school hallways have turned into shooting ranges. There is a common theme of students demonstrating anger about becoming another statistic. Students expressed the feeling of constantly being on edge, worried for if there will be a gunshot heard in places they call home. 

One speaker echoed that students already experience an abundance of stress. Along with trauma in homes, depression and not having enough access to food, students now have to add the fear of a school shooting onto the list of stressors. 

The shared experience from Feb. 13 will forever be engraved in the minds of students. Speakers shared how the nightmare became a reality as they went about their day normally, only to be interrupted with red and blue lights from police cars illuminating the sky.

Manuel discussed how shootings are nothing new. On Sept. 11 and Oct. 30 of last year, she was on site when shots were fired in downtown East Lansing. Not only did she have to text her mother that she was safe last Monday, but two other times in the span of five months. 

Student holding sign during protest at the Lansing Capitol building on February 20 | Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Helplessness has consumed the minds of parents, community members and students this week. Speakers shared how intense the fear was when they were not able to get in contact with loved ones or know if their friends were safe.

Freshman Trystan Guerrero said, “I guess it just feels really surreal… and at first it was sad but I have never been more angry than anything else.”

Guerrero’s cousin was in Berkey Hall during the time of the shooting, which caused the family group chat to be flooded with messages and check-ins. She said she is angry at those who felt above the danger and did not take the lockdown seriously. 

“Seeing my roommates and friends crying… they look up to me as someone who is strong and I knew if I cried they would know it’s bad. I tried really hard not to cry the whole night,” Guerrero said. 

Junior Carl Austin Miller Grondin shared his story and experiences from last Monday, emphasizing the need to support students.

Find Friends was not working for Grondin and he frantically called his friends and loved ones to check in. He continuously called his sister to tell her to barricade and talk her through what was happening.

“I couldn’t do anything to help her, and I am her protector,” Grondin said. 

He validated the emotions of students by sharing his own. Grondin shared that, like himself, students have not been able to sleep. Hearing how strong Spartans are and the question “How are you doing?” have become too much to bear for students. Grondin said it feels as if students are under a microscope.

“You do not owe anyone anything and it’s okay to not be okay,”  Grondin said. “Do what you need to do.” 

Grondin shared that there is no rulebook on how to navigate through this nightmare and grieve in a way that feels best. 

Student holding sign during protest at the Lansing Capitol building on February 20 | Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Sophomore Jessica Hrynkiw said, “I feel well supported. I’m very happy that the community, family and friends have come together to support us during this very hard time.” 

Hrynkiw attended the event today after her friend encouraged her to be a part of something that is bigger and more powerful.

Some students expressed that they were experiencing difficulty when trying to talk about the shooting with those outside of MSU. One student shared that she did not know how to call her family in Germany to explain what had happened because there are no words in the German vocabulary to describe a mass shooting or why a man would have a gun. She shared that guns and violence have become a part of being American and we need to tear that violence from our identities.

Speakers expressed their frustrations, sharing that this event became political when a man entered campus with a gun. A student yelled out in anger, saying there have been more mass shootings than days this year.

Generation Z was highlighted for their strength, desire for change and the need to make their voices heard. A student on the microphone encouraged students to come together and make progress. Multiple students voiced that there is power in youth and that the darkness in the world will not stop them from making change. One student encouraged students to riot if anyone tries to take their power or silence their voices. He shared that not only are they Spartans, but Generation Z.

Student holding sign during protest at the Lansing Capitol building on February 20 | Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Another common feeling for students is the increasing fear of being alone at night, as well as large groups and loud noises. Students shared that a variety of situations are now triggering and overwhelming them. There was a shared frustration that it has been taught at a young age how to prepare for an active shooter with drills in school. 

Student holding sign during protest at the Lansing Capitol building on February 20 | Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Freshman Jacinta Henry said, “I feel that the center of focus is having to shift; it just can’t be on school anymore. Especially as an education major, I can’t see myself going into schools if they are unsafe. I cannot see myself taking on that responsibility.”

Henry approached the microphone at the event and performed an original song. She said that she has not written music in a couple years, but felt compelled to say something. As she began writing, the words came naturally.

“It feels good to be here. I was at the press conference earlier and it feels like change is happening but at the same time I don’t know what it is going to feel like going back to the dorms after. I don’t feel like going to classes. It’s just not going to feel normal again. I can’t settle back in, it doesn’t feel normal,” said Henry. 

Manuel continued to invite students to approach the microphone if they felt comfortable sharing their stories and making their voices heard.

“Spartans cry. Spartans hug one another,” Grondin said. “We will reclaim our campus and we will reclaim our voices.”