During our freshman and sophomore years, we attend assemblies to review the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) protocol to prepare ourselves for the possibility of an unfortunate and unthinkable event of an active shooter at St. Ursula Academy. To calm our nerves after hearing terrifying stories of school shootings, we have been assured that the likelihood of an attack is low and we are safe on our campus. Under the mentality of “it will never happen to me,” we hope and pray that the violence that took place at Columbine in 1999 and Virginia Tech in 2007 never happens at SUA. Our campus is like a second home, a place where we feel secure, connect with friends, and create memories that last a lifetime. While surrounded by friends and mentors, it is difficult to actually picture what violent tragedies could unfold at SUA.
But ignorance is bliss. On November 28, 2016, what we never believed could happen so close to home took place at The Ohio State University. Mainstream media has already covered much of the incident, but Armand Ghazi, a third year-engineering student, offers an eyewitness account of what he calls a “jarring” experience.
Early on that Monday morning, Ghazi was sitting in class in the engineering building when the fire alarm went off due to a gas leak. The students and professors evacuated outside and waited for about 40 minutes for the fire department to arrive and fix the leak. After the fire department’s departure, the crowd of students and professors who had been waiting finally would return to class. What seemed like a normal day turned to disaster when Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove over the curb and plowed his car into fellow students. Screams of panic and horror disrupted the calm, crisp November air. Ghazi was standing among the crowd as the car hit, sending several students and their professors “flying in the air,” he relates.
This was not the end of the Artan’s attack. Ghazi says he approached the car to see what had happened when he saw the assailant push the door open and emerge with a butcher knife. The screams grew louder and everyone began to flee from the scene, as if the farther they ran away the violence would seemingly disappear. The assailant took the knife and swung at whatever was closest to him. After finding a secure location, Ghazi called 9-1-1. A young OSU police officer and alum, Alan Horujko, located and shot the assailant, ending the attack within a minute of the car crash. Thankfully, none of the assailant’s victims died, and only left with minor physical injuries. What remains, however, is the striking memory of an attack on friends, school, mentors, and home. Ghazi says the atmosphere is still very tense and people remain afraid, though they are united in this time of tragedy.
In the face of this violence, people did not hesitate to show their support for the victims and their families. Ghazi found that the OSU community had an especially strong response, offering counseling to those in need. The university also held a #BuckeyeStrong vigil at which University President Dr. Michael V. Drake said the school came together during this time “as one Buckeye community.”
Governor John Kasich seconded this. “We are a strong, tough, and resilient community.” The community has also come together to thank the police officer, Alan Horujko, who was able to take control of the situation and end the attack so quickly.
The engineering students at OSU have become the strongest as a direct result of this attack as they were ones who experienced it firsthand. Because the attack happened at their building, Ghazi says it is hard to forget the events of that fateful Monday. With the engineering major being small and naturally close, he adds that the close-knit classmates came together more so now than ever during this time of adversity. Together they experienced the absolute shock and fear of experiencing an attack on themselves, their friends, and their school, undoubtedly disrupting their sense of security. Together they must also find strength in one another.
Many students continue to speak of the fear they have, even when hearing the sound of a car passing, as stated by Ghazi. Recalling the scene, Ghazi vividly remembers the details all too well, and comments on how incredibly heartrending it is to see you classmates and professors in an utterly terrified state of pain and confusion. In the school’s newspaper, The Lantern, one student said he is shocked. “You never think this would happen to your school until it’s actually happening at your school.” Ghazi says as the attack was happening the horrifying thought of this is happening was all that was running through his head.
Other students voiced fear of backlash toward Muslim students because though the attack was claimed by ISIS, the link between the attack and the terror cell has not yet been confirmed. Ghazi says that he has not personally witnessed any backlash toward the Muslim community at OSU, and has seen support for all diverse groups across campus. However, he can see people using this attack to impose more negative stereotypes onto the religion because the attacker was Muslim. The OSU co-president of the Muslim Students’ Association and fourth-year in industrial and systems engineering, Maliha Masood, said, “When the name came out, it was kind of sad. It’s like not only are we grieving ourselves, we have to make sure we put across this is not what our religion is.”
Throughout 2016, violence has been a reoccurring theme in the headlines not just in our country but around the world. Violent incidents such as this one see humanity at its worst. Hatred takes control over everything resulting in horror and immense grief for so many innocent people. Likewise, these incidents show individuals how to endure, survive, and unite against acts of hatred. As best stated by Gerald Basalla, the OSU Student Body President, “We are a community of love for all people at all times.”