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Thousands mourn at Michigan State vigil: ‘Those kids didn’t have to die.’

MSU students gather in remembrance of three students who were killed by a gunman on Monday. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)
  • Michigan State students and others gathered Wednesday night for a vigil to honor victims of a campus shooting
  • MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and others spoke
  • Some students say they need more security after Monday’s mass shooting

EAST LANSING — Thousands gathered Wednesday evening at Michigan State University to mourn the deaths of three students, hope for healing of five critically injured students and regain a sense of community that was shattered.

The university is reeling from a Monday night mass shooting that had students barricading their doors, parents frantically texting their children and law enforcement descending throughout the university of 50,000 students. 

Almost 48 hours later, vigil attendees were told their feelings are valid and offered words of hope. The one-hour program began at 6 p.m., and in the first few minutes, students were told there were counselors, religious advisors and therapy dogs present to help them. 


“Let us continue to find strength and hope in our community of Spartans, let us keep our resolve in our heads and our hearts as we reclaim our campus, your campus, for MSU’s mission of transformation,” said Interim President Teresa Woodruff outside the entrance of MSU Auditorium. 

The crowd was massive, stretching from the steps of the MSU Auditorium toward Bessey Hall and outward past the Rock toward Red Cedar River. Many held candles or flowers. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, an MSU grad, said “we really, really love this place and you can see it in how we treat one another and how we show up for one another.”

“Our Spartan community is reeling this week,” Whitmer said.

MSU Men’s Basketball Coach Tom Izzo spoke for about 8 minutes, encouraging the thousands to shake hands with strangers and “meet 10 people around you and become close.”

“The world needs it. Michigan State needs it. The grieving time needs it. I need it,” Izzo said.

That night an hour away in Ann Arbor, University of Michigan students held a vigil for its traditional rival, while its Burton Tower was lit with green and white, MSU’s colors. In Clawson, community members planned to hold three vigils to honor one of their own, Alexandria Verner, one of three students killed in the attack, along with Brian Fraser and Arielle Diamond Anderson, who both graduated from Grosse Pointe Schools.

Other vigils were also planned across the state for Wednesday night. 

At the MSU vigil students told Bridge Michigan they feel conflicted.

Hajra Masinovic, a senior studying English, said she is sad and angry the university didn’t provide better security. First-year student Eva Khalil said she has a nonlinear sense of grief and a “reality check” every time she sees photos of the gunman on social media. Graduate student Samantha Smith said she’s disappointed, but eager for change.

“I’m tired of people dying for no reason,” Smith said through tears. 

“Because those kids didn’t have to die. I’m 32, I remember what it’s like being 18, I remember what it’s like being 19. There’s a part of their life that they haven’t felt yet, that they won’t feel. And I’m sad for that.” 

MSU junior Mackenzie Rademacher said she won’t feel safe again on campus until there are more safety measures such as key card entries or security guards in areas where key cards aren’t possible. 

“I just never thought I would be scared to go to class,” the animal science student told Bridge after the vigil. 

Students comfort each other during a vigil Wednesday night at Michigan State University. (Bridge photo by Dale Young)

She said she’s heartened by support from across the nation, noting that Duke University played the MSU fight song and alma mater and President Joe Biden speaking out against gun violence.

Khalil, holding white and pink flowers, said is also eager for change, though she doesn’t know what exactly that would look like.

“I still love MSU.” 

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