Content Warning: this post contains sensitive information regarding the school shooting at UNCC. Please be advised.
I will never forget where I was at 5:40 pm on Tuesday, April 30th, 2019. The bewildered look on my classmate's face as she read the text that said "Shots fired near Kennedy. Run, fight, hide." is forever engraved in my mind.
There are no words to describe the weight I felt in my chest as I typed "I love you." to my parents and siblings, wondering if it would be my last chance. I was overwhelmed by the number of messages that flooded my phone as I hunkered down behind the classroom podium, unsure of what the next moments would hold.
Reports of multiple shooters, bomb threats, and other misinformation filled the room. For three hours I was living in an alternate reality, one I still can't seem to shake.
When I heard that two of my fellow students had died, and four others had been injured, all I could do was cry. Panic filled every part of my being as I frantically checked on everyone I could think of. My world was forever changed in an instant.
This is not a story that any student should have to write, and I definitely never imagined that I would be one of the 29,000 students living one version of it. No one ever thinks that this kind of tragedy will happen on their campus, and I can't stand the thought of something like this ever happening again. Nothing about this tragedy should ever be normal.
Everything about this painful event is so unfair, yet there is strength and solace to be found in unity. Every one of us is grieving differently, which can make us feel alone, but together we really are Charlotte Strong.
I am so proud of the bravery my classmates displayed on Tuesday, and the support we continue to offer one another. I remain heartbroken for the friends and families of Riley and Reed, and I'm prayerful for the full recoveries of Rami, Sean, Drew and Emily.
It is my hope that each of us will be patient with ourselves and one another as we learn to face the challenging emotions we feel and work through the traumas of this event together. We will never forget and we may never be the same, yet we will rise.
Remember that it's okay to not feel okay right now. If you feel the need to speak with a counselor you can visit the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services on campus at UNCC. For immediate assistance overnight call 704-687-0311 to be connected to a counselor.