EAST LANSING, Mich. – As horror rung out on the campus of Michigan State University on the evening of Feb. 13, alumnus Kelsey Silverman remembered countless walks from her dormitory across the street to the MSU Union building. What was once a safe haven to grab a bite to eat, study for upcoming exams or fraternize with fellow students for Silverman and countless other alums was now the scene of senseless gun violence.
Silverman, who graduated from Michigan State in 2017, felt a sense of hopelessness while following the events that saw a gunman open fire inside of a classroom within Berkey Hall and the nearby Union building, killing three students and critically injuring five others.
“All that I could think to do was call anyone I know that had a family member still at MSU, to make sure that they were ok.” Silverman said.
“My freshman year dorm was right next to the Union. I always went (there) for food or to study and work on group projects.” She continued. “Mass shootings unfortunately continue to happen. When it happens in a place that you know so well and once considered like home, it hits you personally. You want to do something.”
A grieving process began for the MSU community, as well as its alumni, immediately following the terror of Feb. 13.
Those associated, but not physically at the university, wondered what they could do to help.
Taylor Strobridge, a teacher at West Bloomfield High School and alum of the university, felt for her former students. Many of those that were once in Strobridge’s high school classroom are currently attending Michigan State University, including one who was in the Union building as violence erupted.
After the tragedy, the university suspended classes for the remainder of the week, bringing many students to return home and process the horrific event away from campus, where some no longer felt safe.
“A lot of my students (who are now at MSU) came back to spend time with family and friends, so I took those who were willing out to dinner.” Strobridge said. “It was emotional, a lot of crying. I felt that the least I could do was lend out a hand, letting them know that I was there for support and was grieving for the school that I love, too.”
ESPN’s Malika Andrews and Tim Bontemps reported that NBA star James Harden has made an effort to support Michigan State students in the wake of the tragedy.
Harden discovered that he has a huge fan in John Hao, the 20-year-old Michigan State student who is recovering in the hospital after being paralyzed from the chest down during the shooting.
Hao’s roommate started a GoFundMe page to support his recovery, which currently has over $375,000 raised.
Harden reportedly donated to the GoFundMe and sent game-worn sneakers, as well as giving Hao a call on FaceTime and leaving him with his phone number to know that the star player’s support will continue to be there.
“This is real life, you know what I mean? This is bigger than basketball.” Harden told ESPN. “I’m fortunate just to be in a position where I can make an impact on people’s lives. That’s what I really care about. That’s what I value, and that’s what makes me happy, obviously other than basketball, family, things like that. It’s a tragedy. He wasn’t expecting that. There was nothing he could control. That’s the craziest part about it. Anything I can do my part, I’m going to do it.”
Harden’s generosity fits with the motto that the MSU community and alumni are falling back to during this tragic time, a rallying cry of ‘Spartan Strong’.
The university started the Spartan Strong Fund, which is built to provide support for the evolving needs of the individuals most critically impacted, as well as for student and staff counseling and recognition for those involved with the crisis, according to the fund’s website.
MSU has created t-shirts, buttons and other memorabilia that display the ‘Spartan Strong’ rally. According to the Spartan Spirit Shop, 100% of the profits of any MSU Spartan Strong merchandise go to the fund.
“I ordered (shirts) for my entire family.” Strobridge said. “It’s a message that I will wear and embody with pride.”