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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

Content warning: This story discusses sensitive topics including school shootings.

222 days.

5,328 hours.

Roughly 319,680 minutes.

That is how long ago shots were fired on my campus. That is how long it has been since we lost three classmates. How long is has been since four of my friends and I barricaded ourselves in a dorm, shifting beds and dressers in the dark. The only noise louder than the ever present helicopter and sirens was the sound of our own heartbeats. 

I could spend paragraphs detailing those hours and telling you what it felt like to run off of campus. I could try to put words to the looks I received for the first month, but none of that truly fits because others have told you that before.

I would like to speak about the things you haven’t heard. These things were said and done after the cameras turned away from Michigan State University. They were things that we would have written if the paper was not taken out from under us. For the next couple of weeks, every detail of the tragedy was in the news. I didn’t want to turn on the news or look at my phone because every word was too fresh and the idea of speaking that soon felt like it brought my stomach into my throat. Now, it has been seven months. Our name has left the news, and we are another statistic to be studied.

We did not heal during those two weeks of coverage.Personally, I had just begun to process anything that had happened. That is why I am here to tell you what it is like after the media turns away, and we are left to heal and grow without being given a long-lasting platform or spotlight:

Though not publicized as much, there are still resources offered by the university to help us cope with anything we may need. 

I am working on learning to trust strangers again, reminding myself every day that one horrible man should not take away my love of people and of life. Admittedly, I have a long way to go. To start, I had nightmares any time I was able to sleep, but I didn’t sleep much. Now, I only have one or two nightmares a week. Although I don’t have nightmares as often as I did at first,  every night when I try to go to sleep, my heart starts to race at the thought of more nightmares, or tragedies. 

I somehow have both gained and lost independence. 

I am better at standing up for myself and my beliefs. I got the piercing I always wanted, and I started dying my hair despite what other people would think. I wear my brightly colored clothes, and I talk at length about living a “poetic life”. I have joined many groups fighting to put an end to gun violence, and I have even attended several protests. I let my opinions echo, and I live a lot more like I always wished that I had.

But at the same time, I hate falling asleep in a room by myself, walking alone when it is dark, and experiencing silence.I I fill every space with noise, so my mind never goes back to that silent dorm, but loud noises make me stressed. Crowded concert venues that used to be my happy place have become a point of stress and anxiety. I went from being someone who handled every issue myself to needing consolement from my 13-year-old brother when I had a panic attack recently. 

My friends and I talk about how sometimes, things feel “almost normal” and laughter makes it feel like nothing ever happened. It is a bubble of positivity and hope. Even if it is at risk of being popped, I cling to it when it is there. We say we have become part of a club that nobody wants to join, but we are grateful to the kindness offered by those who unfortunately joined the so-called “club” before us.. 

I cried when I heard about another college facing a lockdown. I almost threw up when my significant other notified me that a gun was on his campus. Both times, I hoped it was the last time I would ever read those texts. But threat after threat, and there is still no change. I watch as the horrible “club” gets bigger, and the news floods their name for weeks then goes silent. I think of them often, and I hope that the world is kinder to them soon.

Cassidy Howard is in her second year at Michigan State, and her second semester with Her Campus. She is a social media assistant for the Michigan State Chapter. She is pursuing a major in journalism and a minor in creative writing. She loves writing in all forms and has had poetry shared in a global conference connected to the Corona Multimedia Showcase and was a member of the 2021 InsideOut Youth Performance Troupe, sponsored by Toyota, in addition to being able to perform some poetry on PBS’ Detroit Performs. More recently she has had poems shared in The State News and performed at MSU's 2023 FemFest. When not writing articles or working on her first published book of poetry she loves to listen to music and spend time with her cats- Thomas and Shadow.