With a warm, sunny weekend coming to an end, I was in my bed watching Netflix Sunday night when the unthinkable happened.
I paused my show to the roaring of police sirens increasing outside my window and then heard the only suitemate that was home call out to me that someone had been stabbed. GroupMe chats and other text messages began blowing up our phones with various locations and rumors about how and where the incident had occurred, making it hard to decipher the truth.
I was staring out my bedroom window at the commotion when a flashlight was shone at me, it was a policeman motioning for me to open my window. When I did he asked me if I had witnessed anything, but I told him I was just trying to see what was going on. After that we immediately closed and locked our suite door and sat in the common room, watching out the window as more and more police cars pulled into the parking lot behind our dorm. The only thing we were sure of was that someone had been stabbed in Windham Hall, the building next to ours (Cascade) in our Mountainview community.
Our immediate concern was for our other suitemates and their locations, warning them that it wasn't safe to walk back to our dorm if they were not already there. After communicating through our windows with a group of girls in Windham, we found out that the stabbing had in fact occurred on the ground floor of Windham. We were able to hear the cops as they arrived on the scene and discovered that the suspect had fled from the side door of the building which was visible from our suite. Remaining on the couch together, we watched Mountainview go into lockdown.
Looking through the peephole you could see that everyone's doors (usually open and sociable) were now closed and locked. Looking out the window you could tell that word had spread fast, nobody was outside of their building, let alone their room. We watched as a student attempted to enter the side door through which the suspect had fled, but he opened the door to three policemen standing guard who immediately told him he had to enter another way. At 11:14 pm, Binghamton University sent out an emergency alert which stated, "Stabbing in Windham Hall about 10:30 pm. Suspect fled on foot. Described as a light-skinned male wearing dark pants and dark Puma hoodie. Police are on the scene. Avoid the area. No further details are available at this time. Updates will be sent as more information becomes available."
The sound of our doorknob shaking made both of us jump, but we were relieved to find two of our suitemates at the door who had waited in the nearby dining hall until they formed a group of students to walk back with. The four of us sat in the common room for the next hour, drinking hot chocolate and watching as policemen patrolled the area. With all the rumors being passed around, we were waiting to receive some sort of news or at least overhear something outside. The night eventually came to a standstill and the four of us returned to our own rooms, locking our doors behind us.
There I was, laying in my bed staring out the window, looking directly at the door through which the suspect had used to run from Windham. It's ironic that people always want to see what's going on when bad things happen, even when we're looking at horrible things we can't bring ourselves to tear our eyes away. I stayed awake, not wanting to miss if another alert was sent out to update us on the situation. Around two o'clock in the morning, I decided I should try to go to bed, especially since I thought we'd be having class on Monday. However, my mind kept me up the entire night- long enough for me to see the cops return and search the area with flashlights, to see the sunrise, to see a cameraman film, and to finally (at 6:16am) receive an update on the situation which said, "Binghamton University is sad to report that the Windham Hall stabbing victim, male age 19, has died of his wounds." While this news was tragic and surreal, it brought on another question, what about the suspect?
I continued to watch out the window at the empty campus, asking myself if I was going to walk to class knowing that the suspect was still out there after all of this time. But my question was answered for me nearly two hours later when we received an alert notifying us that classes were canceled for the day. It was a rainy day, matching the mood on the campus as everyone remained in their dorm for the day and the few that did venture out to the dining hall traveled in large groups. Through tired eyes I watched out the window as the day went by, looking as eerie as it felt.
At 5:35 pm Monday evening, we received the alert that finally allowed people to breathe again, "Stabbing suspect in custody. No threat to campus." Michael Roque was found in his own dorm room in Hunter, the building on the other side of mine (two away from Windham). Still feeling on edge about the past hours, my roommate and I only ventured out to dinner and then returned to our room. Reality had finally set in on this awful situation and it made going through the week feel like everyone was just going through the motions.
When classes resumed the next day, it was gray and gloomy, much like everyone's mood. People continued to travel in groups, still on edge despite knowing the suspect had been caught. It was as if the tragedy had both united us and torn us apart as students- wanting the comfort of our friends but not knowing if we could trust the person sitting next to us anymore. Suite doors that used to be left open to socialize were now constantly closed and locked.
While many of us, including myself, may not have been close with Joao Souza, his death created a ripple effect on students and has changed our experience at Binghamton forever. Not only had we faced Souza's death, but just thirty-seven days earlier we had experienced a similar tragedy when another Binghamton student, Haley Anderson was murdered by a fellow classmate as well. Two tragic deaths of aspiring students in just one semester.
Just when I thought all the commotion was over, I was awoken on Thursday morning to the sounds of moving bins rolling and the clattering of objects. I looked out my bedroom window at the side door of Windham once again and saw everything from Souza's suite being removed-mattresses, beds, desks and table all taken apart. The most disturbing part of this scene was that the cleaning service van's slogan read, "Like It Never Even Happened." It did happen and no matter what they do to replace the furniture in that suite, they can't erase what happened there.
This tragedy will always remain in my head and my heart as I'm sure it will with many others. My thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and family of Joao. It is something that has brought us together as students and will stay with us forever. The link below is a Go Fund Me page in memory of Joao Souza,
"The orignal purpose of this fund was to help the family pay for the expenses associated with this tragedy. The family has expressed that the money raised be donated to a fund in Joao's honor to help underprivileged children in Brazil pursue their dreams of playing soccer, the sport that brought so much joy to Joao in his short life."