In Memoriam: For My Niner Nation, For My UNC Charlotte Community, We Are Charlotte Strong

ModernSpongeBobSucks
Dear fellow TopTenners, it has been a very long time ever since I went on an unofficial hiatus due to my college work keeping me occupied. However, now that I speak of college, this brings me to the topic I have been wanting to discuss my thoughts and feelings on ever since it happened. You see, the college that I go to, is the very college that had fallen victim to the latest university shooting in the United States. I know it has been about a week or so since this heartbreaking tragedy occurred (and it’s even more tragic that only after 1 week another shooting has occurred at a STEM school in Denver, Colorado), but now that I’ve had time to process and move forward stronger than ever and I am now more connected to my college community, it is time for me to break my silence and express all of my thoughts and experiences that I have endured during the past few days following what will now be known as the saddest day in UNC Charlotte history.

For those of you who may or may not know, in the late Tuesday afternoon of April 30 th, 2019 at approximately 5:50 PM, a shooter opened fire in a classroom where students were giving final presentations on their last day of classes for the spring semester on the campus of UNC Charlotte. The shots were fired on the second floor of the Kennedy building, the oldest building in UNC Charlotte. As soon as the shots were fired, they were reported immediately as soon as possible so that UNC Charlotte could send Niner Alert messages to all students, both on campus and off campus, for them to secure themselves by running, hiding, or fighting as a last resort. At the end of this chaos, 2 students had died, and 4 other students were critically injured and are now recovering in the hospital. In addition, the entire campus was placed on lockdown until 5:20 AM the next morning while police were clearing out each building.

For me and anyone who are members of the 49er community at UNC Charlotte, I have to say that no one, and I mean no one, had never expected something as tragic like this to happen to our beloved campus where we learned subjects old and new in class, talked with friends old and new, and walked on the beautiful college environment some had called home. To think anything like this could happen should never have happened in the first place. In addition, like I said earlier, April 30 th was supposed to be the last day of classes for the spring semester. In other words, it was supposed to be a day of relief and relaxation as everyone was finishing up the last of their classes before we prepared ourselves for our final exams that were supposed to begin this Thursday. Sadly, April 30 th went from a day of relief and relaxation to a day of tragedy and loss.

From my side of the story, when I began my Tuesday morning on April 30 th, to me, it was just like any other day. I went to go study at the Atkins Library since my Global Connections class that normally took place on Tuesday mornings this semester was over and my final exam for that class was done. I fell asleep on one of the chairs I was studying in before heading to my lab section of my ITSC class. After my lab instructor had left while I was trying to finish up an assignment, instead of deciding to study in the library or the math center for my calculus final exam, I decided to take the light rail and go eat IHOP for lunch before heading back home to study in my bed. Little did I know that my decision to go home instead of staying on campus would save my life. While I was laying in my bed slacking off on my phone and laptop, around 5:50 PM, I suddenly received a text message on my phone saying that shots were reported near the Kennedy building and that everyone should secure themselves by either running, hiding, or fighting. As I was off campus at the time, I was completely shocked but didn’t think much of it at first. But it didn’t take long for me to realize what had happened and took to Twitter to see that my own college was trending at the top in the United States. While I was on Twitter, I knew had to immediately message all my close friends on Twitter who I knew from TheTopTens about what had just happened to my college. In addition, I had informed my sister and mother about the shooting. My mother was understandably shocked about the shooting and relieved I had not been on campus at the time, although my sister was just glad that I was okay. As for my father, when he called me around 8:00 PM like he always does every night, the first thing both me and him tried to address was the shooting. I immediately told my father that I was at home and away from the site of the shooting and then my father subsequently asked me if I knew about the shooting that had occurred at my college. Afterwards, after my father knew I was safe, I stayed up all night listening to live coverage of the aftermath of the shooting on Twitter when the college campus was put on lockdown. In addition, I kept checking my college e-mail for any updates on the situation at UNC Charlotte and how they were going to deal with final exams and graduation. But one important update I saw was an invitation for all members of the UNC Charlotte community to gather at Star Quad around 6:00 PM tomorrow for a candlelight vigil service in remembrance of the victims who were injured or had died during the tragic shooting.

The next day, I knew what I had to do. Whether I still had to study for my exams or not, I decided to go straight to the Student Union to wait there until it was time for the candlelight vigil service, although, later updates corrected it and said everyone would meet at the Halton Arena first before going outside to Star Quad. When I arrived at the Student Union, everything was quiet, yet it felt like life went on normal as usual. After I ate lunch at the Student Union, I decided to walk around the campus and witness the aftermath of what had happened during the tragic shooting. I left the Student Union to begin exploring, but not before seeing boxes laid out that were to hold donations for the candlelight vigil, such as candles, tissues, and water. After leaving the Student Union, as I walked to the first location I was going to, I saw the 49er Gold Miner statue, where two bouquets of flowers were laid out in front of it. In all its history, the 49er Gold Miner statue served as a symbol of prosperity and luck to my university, even being used as a sort of wishing well where coins would be dropped into the pan for good luck on upcoming exams. However, with the events of the shooting, the statue now held a new meaning that would remember and honor those who were lost during the tragic shooting.

For my first location, I went to the Kennedy building, which was not only where the shooting began, but also where my ITSC class’s lecture section was held. As I approached the building, I saw some students hugging each other along with some news crew who were standing around and tinkering around with their cameras. When I reached the entrance of the Kennedy building, what I saw was a bouquet of flowers laid out on its footsteps, complete with one of the front doors open and the inside of the building still under investigation under police. Shortly afterwards, I met one of the UNC Charlotte alumni who were wandering the campus to help comfort those affected by the shooting. The alumni and I had expressed the same sentiments about the shooting: about how sad and heartbreaking the tragedy was, how much the perpetrator’s senseless act of violence enraged us, and most importantly, how the most important thing to do was to remember the names of the victims of the tragedy rather than the shooter’s name.

My next location was the Atkins Library. When I last saw it on Twitter, I had found that one of its door windows had been shattered. To my surprise and relief, the very door window that was shattered was good as new, meaning it was quickly fixed. While the Kennedy building was still closed for investigation, the library was still open for studying but had very little people inside it. There, I saw boxes holding the belongings of everyone who had to leave their stuff behind in the library when the school was placed on lockdown. In addition, with a little more exploring, to my horror, I bore witness to the doors that had their knobs busted and torn out as a result of police trying to assure people who were hiding in the rooms that the police were here to help, where they were barricading themselves inside the rooms at the time of the shooting. Shortly after, I headed outside the library and saw the flagpole that stood in front of it have its two flags, one the United States of America flag and the other the North Carolina state flag, lowered at half-position in remembrance of those lost during the tragic shooting.

My last location before heading back to the Student Union was one of the hammocks near the College of Health and Human Services. While I had struggled to position myself onto the hammock, me and two other male students were then met by a group of female students and other affiliates who were going around campus to spread thoughts and prayers with those who had suffered during this tragedy. I do not remember word for word what I exactly said when I gave my grieving words, but I do know that what I said would ensure that I would never forget this tragedy for as long as I live. After I had given my words, the other two male students and the group of female students gathered together to pray for the lives of those who died and the lives of those who were still recovering. My only regret was not praying with them even after I had given my grieving words.

Eventually, I made my way back to the Student Union and studied there until around 6:00 PM when I saw a massive line of students walking towards the Halton Arena and I joined in. As I approached the Halton Arena, the thousands of people who had crowded the entrance of the Halton Arena astonished me. To think earlier that day, it was so quiet and not much people were around, only to see in the evening that everyone who was able to attend had come at the right time when our community needed it. Even though what brought us to the Halton Arena was sad and tragic, the pure strength and numbers of everyone who united to stand in honor of our community and those who had been victims of the shooting truly showed how closely connected our community was. In fact, I even got to reunite with a female student that I hadn’t seen since my day of convocation during my SOAR orientation. My only wish was that my reunion with an old friend didn’t have to come about as a result of a heartbreaking tragedy. When everyone was gathered in the Halton Arena and the army officers held their flags in remembrance and honor of those lost during the tragedy, the chancellor, student body president, and some other figure I couldn’t recall his position on, all spoke individually on what had transpired on the evening of April 30 th. Even though they were different individuals of different authority, one thing that remained the same between all of them was the pure emotion and heartbreak that was pouring out of them and resonating with the hearts of me and the rest of my community. Eventually, we all headed outside and gathered candles to light them while we listened to the college female chorus singing as we conducted the candlelight vigil. And before I headed home after the candlelight vigil was over, I witnessed a few students laying out their own candles in front of the same 49er Gold Miner statue I had seen earlier today, with more candles and even more flowers being laid out one by one. Even though our lives were brought down with loss, our community spirit never faltered and grew even stronger.

Moving on, I want to thank all my friends from here on Twitter who supported me during this tragedy. I want to thank Rue, NikBrusk, Elric-san, and TheWindWakerFan for expressing their support and concern for me when the shooting happened, along with my friend Mcgillacuddy who coincidentally contacted me at the right time on MyAnimeList on the same night of the tragic shooting. I especially want to give a huge thanks to RoseRedFlower, who not only showed support and concern for me, but also made the selfless and generous decision to donate $100 to my college’s crowdfunding campaign that had been founded in order to raise money to help support those who were affected by the tragic shooting. I personally donated $50 myself to the crowdfunding campaign as well, and while I wish I could have donated more money to help my community, the best thing to remember is that any amount will always be a big help as long as it will help those who need it most during this time of tragedy.

Before I end this post, I want to remember and honor the names of the victims of those who were killed or injured during the shooting:

Riley Howell
Ellis Parlier
Sean DeHart
Drew Pescaro
Rami Alramadhan
Emily Houpt

Special mention goes especially to Riley Howell, who was not only a true 49er, but also a true hero as well. I may not have known him myself personally, but him sacrificing his life to save others by tackling the gunman when he was fatally shot was a tragic but heroic deed that will never be forgotten. If it wasn’t for him, I couldn’t fathom how many more lives would have been taken. Again, I may not have known Riley myself, but for his heroic deed, now me and the rest of my community will make sure he is never forgotten. On a smaller note, what also hurts me a little was when I learned from my calculus teacher that she had taught Riley Howell and Ellis Parlier at one point, so I could only imagine how heartbroken my calculus teacher was when she learned two students that she previously taught were tragically killed. To conclude my thoughts and prayers on the victims, I can only say that I wish for Riley and Ellis to rest in peace and for Sean, Drew, Rami, and Emily to all make a full recovery for as long as it takes.

Unfortunately, there’s so much more I want to write about what happened to me and my community. About how we’re continuing to help each other out and move forward, about how united we were more than ever before, and about how it taught me and my college some important lessons about what it truly means to be part of a family and community. When I write this post, I’m not writing it for just myself. I’m not writing it for attention. I’m not writing it to use it as an excuse for all my mistakes. I’m writing it for me and my UNC Charlotte community. Me and my family, my friends, my professors, my counselors, my faculty and staff, and all the good students and people who work to provide a great learning environment. As I send off my final regards, the final words I write in my mind are:

We are Charlotte Strong.

Comments

This is such terrible news, man. I feel horrible that you and all of your classmates had to go through all that terror and heartbreak. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people at UNC Charlotte to hopefully get through this rough time. Rest in peace to the students who unfortunately lost their lives during this tragedy.

I think I speak for every TheTopTens user here when I say that we are here for you, man. Anytime you need to talk or discuss what happened, we will be there to help you get through this. I know we are just faceless people on an Internet chatroom but we still have the ability to give you some level of comfort and assurance through our words. I wish nothing but the best for you going forward. Thank you for showing courage and strength by telling your side of this story. - phillysports

This has to be one of the most heart-wrenching posts I've read on this site. The news about the UNCC shooting was incredibly tragic, especially with how close to home it hit, and I'm beyond sorry you and your fellow classmates went through such a situation. One's school, college, or university being attacked is something that nobody should ever go through in any capacity. I hope you and everybody else are doing well. May Ellis and Riley rest in peace, and here's hoping that the hospitalized students will make a full recovery. We are Charlotte strong. - WindWakerFan

This is terrible to hear, and this is one of two school shootings that have happened just now. For you though that had to be traumatizing and understandably so. May those in Charlotte rest with high spirits be blessed. - htoutlaws2012

Damn, that is tragic. May the students who died rest in peace. - Zach808

I'm gonna pray for you bro. It's just insane how things like this just happen out of the blue, and it's definitely something that I didn't want to hear about right after Nipsey Hussle was shot dead in LA. It's like I didn't want to accept it. It's why I tried changing the subject so quickly on our chat on MAL. This is just sad. I'm so glad that you're still here with us bro, and rest in peace to the students who died. Stay strong. I also think I need to write a post on the killing of Nipsey Hussle, because it's something that shouldn't be ignored, especially since I live in Crenshaw. - Mcgillacuddy

I feel EXTREMELY tearful after reading this. I can't imagine what you are going through. If you need to talk to someone, do it. Rest in Peace to the victims, and I hope things get better for you. - Pokemonfan10

Damn that's horrible. There are shootings everywhere and it's sad that this world is so dangerous. Prayers to you and all of the students and professors alive and dead. - visitor

I'm...speechless right now. I want to say something, but I don't know what to say. It's terrible to know this feels almost normal because of how often we hear about it. - Archived

Damn. Sorry to hear about this. Rest In Peace to the victims, and I hope the rest of you can stay strong after such a traumatic event. - SuperSonic17

This is a really terrible thing that happened, and I'm so sorry to hear about it. I know it may seem like there are more than enough thoughts and prayers going around right now, but my condolences go out to the families of the victims. - Atham

Stay strong. - Pokemonfan10

Man. That was sad to hear that you were in a school shooting. These types of stuff have been familiar stories people hear on the news nowadays, but it's a relief that you survived it and you're still with us today. Stay strong, ModernSpongeBobSucks! Man, I hope I'm not the next person to end up in such a traumatic experience being all scared that I might be shot and killed. - JoeBoi

P