As my last semester as a freshman and others’ last semester of college at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte came to an end, there was so much joy and excitement in the air on campus. April 30, 2019 was not only the last day of class, but also the day of a free concert for students by well-known artist Waka Flocka Flame. Some of us were looking forward to the concert and others were looking forward to going home after putting so much work and dedication into their studies during the spring semester.
That afternoon, two of my classmates weren’t able to go home or attend the concert. Their lives were cut short, without a goodbye to families and friends, without experiencing that feeling of relief that comes with having made it through another school year. Four others were injured, scarred for the rest of their lives, all because of the senseless act of one person.
At the time of the shooting, three of my friends and I were leaving a pool right across from campus. Our plan was to walk across the street and through the middle of campus in order to get to the football stadium for the concert. Had we left five minutes earlier than planned, we would likely have been in the path of the active shooter on our campus that late afternoon.
As we gathered our belongings to leave the pool, we noticed helicopters flying in circles over us. We didn’t think twice about it until I got a text message from my friend, “don’t go to the concert” followed by “there’s a shooter on campus.” I don’t think I fully processed the message I’d just received at first. I had heard so many stories on the news about school shootings, but I never thought it would occur at the place I’ve learned to call home for the past year.
With news of an active shooter on campus, we called an Uber to take us to my apartment rather than walking through UNCC’s campus. As we were exiting the pool, workers blocked the door. They weren’t letting anyone out for safety reasons until the Ubers they’d called actually arrived.
This is when everything hit me. My throat tightened, my eyes swelled up. I wasn’t on my phone. I was focused on getting my friends and me to safety; however, as news spread fast, my phone was blowing up with numerous text messages making sure I was okay.
Once safely inside my apartment, everything became a blur. There were different numbers going around about how many were injured. All I remember is hearing “two are dead” and all of us bursting into tears, falling into each other, crying and comforting each other. We were terrified for the safety of our friends who were currently on campus and devastated that such a thing could happen at our own school. Our crying didn’t stop, and if it did it started again within a few minutes. We spent the next hour or so on the phone with loved ones, assuring them we were okay, and talking to friends on campus to make sure they were safe. The brother of a friend at my apartment that day was locked in a classroom on campus, with desks piled in front of the door.
To think that that could have been me, or any one of my friends, made me shiver. I never thought I’d have to text my family and close friends letting them know I was okay during the midst of a school shooting. I never thought I’d have to mark myself as “safe” on Facebook to let my community know they didn’t have to worry about me. I never thought I’d have to write an article like this.
The devastating thing is, this is a common occurrence in this world. In the United States, there “were at least 41 incidents of gunfire on school grounds in 2019.” School shootings should not be normal for our generation. We need a change and we need it yesterday. We need to do everything in our power to prevent devastating events like this from happening again.
The first step is reporting signs. Any questionable behavior should be reported so that the person is monitored, and mental health should be evaluated for suspicious individuals.
Stricter gun laws should be enforced. It is estimated that nearly “2,900 children and teens… are shot and killed and nearly 15,600 are shot and injured every year.” Beyond those directly injured by the bullet, this situation also affects witnesses and loved ones of those shot.
There need to be stricter laws enforced regarding who can obtain a gun as well as laws that require rigorous tests and assessments, including mental health evaluations. I believe there need to be stricter laws prohibiting guns on school grounds. Additional funding for mental health awareness and counseling could go a long way toward recognizing those who might choose a violent path and helping them heal.
While it is disturbing that this is what the world has come to, metal detectors and other ways of making sure no weapons are present should be enforced. While these are only a few changes, they could make a tremendous difference.
Unfortunately, we’ve trained for days like this since we were in kindergarten and yet nothing can fully prepare for its occurrence at our own school. I am beyond thankful that I was able to say that I was safe in this situation, but I am devastated for the ones who weren’t as lucky.
I was scrolling through social media and saw someone had tweeted “when it hits home, it hurts more. But it always hits home with somebody.” Gun violence needs to come to an end. As I am praying for those affected by the shooting, I am also praying for a change to prevent future incidents like this.