Latin Alumni Share Experiences with Campus Shootings


Emily Faith Morgan

University of Virginia’s Beta Bridge is currently painted in memory of those who died in the November 2022 shooting.

“Run. Hide. Fight.” The active shooter notification. The instruction nobody ever wants to—and never should have to—receive.

There have been two mass shootings at college campuses this school year. One of them took place at Michigan State University (MSU) on February 13. Another shooting took place on November 13, 2022, at the University of Virginia (UVA). In both cases, three people died.

Latin alum Luke Thompson ‘22, a freshman at MSU, was doing homework and listening to music in his dorm room around 9 p.m. when he received a barrage of texts asking if he was okay. Having no idea of what was going on, he checked his campus safety app.

“Everybody was saying, ‘There’s an active shooter on campus. Go listen to the police scanner for information. Hide and shelter,’” Luke said. “I checked my email, and we had gotten an email from the school saying, ‘Run. Hide. Fight. There is an active shooter on campus. Lock yourself in any building you can.’”

Luke was on the opposite side of campus from the shooter, so he locked his door, tuned into the police scanner, along with 160,000 other people, and stayed there.

“[The shooting] went on for four hours, and during that time, everyone was really paranoid,” Luke said. “Whenever they would hear a noise, they would call into the police scanner and say, ‘I heard a gunshot in this building.’ Over time, there were probably 14 buildings people thought they heard gunshots in, including the building I was in.”

In addition to an active shooter, there were bomb threats and suspicious cars parked around campus. Students were taking photos of unmarked cars and claiming they belonged to shooters. All of this happened in just over just 20 minutes.

Once the police caught up to the shooter, he shot himself. Reportedly, he was found with two handguns, nine loaded magazines (ammunition feeders), and 50 cartridges of ammunition.

MSU canceled all classes for the following week and provided students with the option to make their classes credit/no credit. A majority of students rushed to get home immediately afterwards, but Luke had to stay around for a few days. “It was just me in a ghost town,” he said.

When students returned to campus, there were different festivals and events to try and bring the community together. In addition, security on campus had increased. Memorials were also made in tribute to those who died.

“The community definitely got a lot stronger through it. But for a terrible reason,” Luke said. “From my perspective, life has sort of gone back to normal. I know there’s a lot of people that haven’t even gone back to classes at all, though. They’ve been able to get extended grief absences. A lot of people have been really fearful of classes. I can’t even imagine the people that were in the room. I hope that they don’t come back for the rest of this year. I think we’re starting to move on, but people won’t forget.”

At UVA, Nick Chu ‘20, another Latin alum and a sophomore, was at his girlfriend’s apartment when his phone buzzed with a vague notification about some violence in a parking garage on campus.

“There are some pretty violent areas around the university, and we’re kind of used to it,” he said. “All we saw [in the notification] was shots fired at a parking garage. I was thinking it was pretty close to where I was, but whatever. Unfortunately, people mostly ignore the notifications. We kept doing whatever, and the texts just kind of kept popping up, and it kept saying, ‘Steer clear the area. Police are en route. Police are there. Continue to stay clear.’ I don’t think it really set in to everyone what was happening until the active shooter notification went out that said, ‘RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.’”

Nick was only a five-minute walk from where the shooting initially took place, and his fraternity house, where many of his friends were, was just down the street.

He said, “There was a police scanner that was going around, which was good and also terrible, because people call in tips and the police go check them out. People would say, ‘Oh my God, he’s in this apartment complex where all of my friends live. He’s in the middle of campus. Now he’s driving down our street.’ It was just really shocking and unsettling, because nobody really knew where he was and it lasted the entire night.”

Fortunately, Nick felt secure where he was, but some of his friends did not. “My friends in the fraternity house were going to bed with golf clubs and knives,” he said. “They are super traumatized still. They haven’t really recovered from that. We woke up, and I still didn’t see the all clear, so I was thinking, ‘Oh my God. What are we supposed to do now? It’s now the next day. We are supposed to be out. How are we going to eat?’”

The all-clear came around 11 a.m., and a press conference was held with the police chief and university president. Similar to MSU, classes were canceled for the next week, and students could elect to take classes pass/fail.

“We had school off, and normally when you have school off you’re like, ‘Let’s go have a party. Let’s go out together. Let’s go play sports. Let’s do something fun.’ It was really somber around [campus], so it was weird. It was a weird place to be. How are you supposed to proceed after that? What are you supposed to do?”

The Beta Bridge, an important place of tradition at UVA where students can paint slogans or pictures to express themselves, was painted to honor those who died in the shooting. Nobody has changed it.

Last week, a shooting took place in Evanston, IL. After firing shots on the Evanston beach, the shooter fled toward the Northwestern University campus, where a shelter-in-place was ordered. Senior Natalie Frankel, who will be attending Northwestern next year, said, “I think that we are all going into college next year with the same fear, because, sadly, hearing about this shooting is not surprising because it is so prevalent in the daily news. It is something that we all may face as we go our separate ways, and I only hope that none of us have to experience the trauma that so many others are facing.”

Mass shootings continue to become more prevalent in the United States, with 146 shootings so far this year. These acts of violence are spoken about all the time, but it can be hard to imagine them if they are far from the community.

“You never expect it to happen to you,” Luke said. “I really did not think it was going to happen.”

Similarly, Nick said, “It’s surreal because you hear about it all the time, but it’s so crazy to see it happening, especially in your community.”

These shootings have a tremendous impact on student communities. Some students have not returned to school. Everybody will remember for the rest of their lives the moment they received the notification to “Run. Hide. Fight.”

“It’s just going to keep happening until major change comes,” Luke said. “It’s just going to leave a whole lot of kids traumatized. I wasn’t anywhere near it, and I still get somewhat scared of loud noises. I’ve had a few nightmares where I’m getting shot by the guy. I think it’s just going to be a long time until hopefully something changes. But right now, I just don’t see a change. It’s made me so much more scared for people at Latin and for people at all the schools they went to. Before this, I just thought, ‘Oh, it’s happening in random parts of the United States, it’s never going to affect me.’ Now it has affected me, and I’m scared for the other people around me.”