Ohio State students quickly rushed to safety Monday morning upon learning of a violent attack on campus, then reflected hours later on the impact on the university community.
Jacob’s Porch, a gathering space for members of the Advent Lutheran Church of Columbus, held a vigil Monday afternoon to help students cope. The Rev. Aaron Lane said students often don’t know what to do when a tragedy like the attack hits close to home.
“When the all-clear is given, now there’s a sudden vacuum,” Lane said.
Michael DePiero, a student from Macedonia, Ohio, was in class when he got the notification about the incident on his phone. Despite having seen attacks and shootings on other campuses, DePiero had a common response.
“I couldn’t believe it was actually happening here,” he said.
The OSU campus is a huge hub of 60,000 students stretching for miles, so while some students were literally running for their lives Monday morning, tens of thousands of others were just searching for solid information in the first hour of the incident, which eventually sent 11 people to local hospitals.
Ohio State sophomore Josh Fulker of Troy lives in a dorm on Woodruff Avenue, a block from the attack site.
“I heard about four or five shots and people started running toward our building,” Fulker said. “They were frantically trying to get into a bunch of different buildings.”
Fulker said as students got the initial notification of the attack, residents of his dorm started coming out of their rooms and going to the windows to see what was going on.
“We get a lot of fake calls and stuff like that where there are a lot of bomb threats,” he said. “But it does surprise you. You don’t expect something like this.”
OSU student Kristie Snouffer was driving to campus when the attack happened, and only learned about it when friends and family started texting her to ask if she was safe. When she got to her classroom, no one was there and she eventually learned her classmates were locked in a lab. By late morning, they had connected and were “watching CNN to see what was going on.”
“Everyone’s still kind of in shock,” Snouffer said just before noon. “Classes are canceled for the rest of the day but no one really wants to leave the building we’re in because we’re safe. I think we’re all just … wondering and hoping that our friends are safe.”
DePiero was one of about 20 or so people to attend the vigil at Advent Lutheran, singing and reciting prayers with other students for about an hour. They also lit candles in a “sandbox cross” at the church, which is used “in times that we need to pray or think about what’s happened,” said Laura Ferree, a contextual education student studying at Trinity Lutheran Seminary.
Many students spent the morning sifting through confusing social media rumors about what was actually happening on campus.
Lane heard from a few students through text message and over the phone. He said his father witnessed the incident and had been in contact with him throughout the day.
“I’ve never used my phone as much as I have today,” Lane said. “It’s all people who are trying to process what’s happened.”
Jared Crandall is an OSU materials science major who was standing outside Watts Hall and was narrowly missed by the attacker’s car. He said the whole incident was over in a matter of seconds. Crandall said he and his classmates quickly got onto the group chat for materials science majors, contacting each other to see if everyone was safe.
“It’s really shocking. When we were leaving, I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that it actually just happened,” Crandall said. “Once I was watching the news and hearing that everybody’s safe and the people who were hurt weren’t too seriously hurt, and the guy was apprehended, I started to regain my composure and realize that, OK, we’re getting on track, we’re getting it together.”
Fulker said Ohio State generally does a good job with security, adding that he usually doesn’t go more than a few minutes on campus without seeing an officer.
“They did a very good job of responding,” Fulker said. “As soon as I heard shots and saw people running, there were sirens.”
Fulker said when students saw SWAT personnel walking around outside his dorm, they were running from room to room to look out different windows.
“Everybody was still in a state of shock … a state of panic.”