Ohio State Attack: Feeling Safe Again

“Sending thoughts and prayers” is something we — unfortunately — see on social media on a daily basis, but nothing will prepare you for when you’re reading it about your community.

I’m a senior at The Ohio State University, and I was on campus during the November 28th attack. First things first, I think everyone at Ohio State knows how much worse Monday could have been, and are grateful that it wasn’t. I definitely know that I’m luckier than the students and professor who were injured, and I think about them everyday. I also need to take another opportunity to thank the police force that took control of the situation so promptly and efficiently: Thank you.

All of that being said, I don’t think anyone in the city of Columbus will ever forget where they were that morning.

I was sitting on the floor in a conference room in Page Hall. I remember being happy I hadn’t eaten anything because I felt like I was going to puke. Next, my mind went to the episode of Degrassi where Rick brings a gun to school, followed by One Tree Hill’s school shooting episode. (You really can’t control where your mind goes during a crisis). 

After a few minutes of sitting among my fellow Buckeyes and answering texts about the situation from basically everyone I have ever met, the panic set in. I was calm on the outside for the sake of everyone around me, but inside, I was freaking out. I was with the freshmen survey class that I TA, so I felt an obligation to keep my cool and put on an act, but the conflicting reports on social media didn’t help. Bombs in campus parking garages? Multiple unidentified shooters? A man in a mask running around with a machete? We heard and read it all. 

I spent the next two hours sweating, shaking, refreshing Twitter, and trying to reassure one of the freshman students next to me that everything was going to be fine. I didn’t know if I believed it, but it felt like the right thing to say.

We eventually got a text from the university that the “shelter in place” had been lifted, but everyone waited a moment before they stood up. After exchanging hopeful glances, people made plans to walk back to their dorms/house together, and I met up with my roommate. 

The vibe on campus was eerie, and no one said a word to each other as they walked home. Over 60,000 people go to Ohio State, so silence is not something we’re used to or comfortable with. I felt like screaming. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the news and fighting off tears. I later tested out my theory that Kate Hudson movies and Chinese food could fix anything, and while How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and fried rice were welcome distractions, they didn’t quite soothe all concerns. 

I was dreading going to bed, but I desperately wanted the day to end. A little over six months ago, my house on campus was robbed. I woke up to someone opening the door to my bedroom, and feeling safe again in Columbus (especially at night) is something I have been actively working on ever since. The attack didn’t help, and I didn’t sleep at all. I tried meditating (usually my saving grace), but reruns of Vanderpump Rules ended up providing more comfort. 

Tuesday consisted of reminding myself not to jump every time I heard a loud noise/siren and distracting myself with homework. I used the same strategy post-robbery, and it worked. For a while. 

The conversations that I overheard and saw on social media in the next few days concerned me. Allowing students to carry guns on campus?  Judging everyone who is Muslim because of one person’s actions? I know these topics are nothing new, but that shouldn’t stop us from being surprised by them. I understand being frustrated, I understand fear, but I don’t understand how allowing students to bring their guns (especially since no one really knew what was happening in this scenario) or how hate speech is going to help anyone. It makes me sad. And confused.

Living in a swing state during one of the most controversial elections in history was a fascinating and horrifying experience. I do not want to alienate anyone, and I wish there was a way to prevent things like this from happening that didn’t involve fighting over policies, but I know that’s not realistic. It’s an uncomfortable realization that our world is nowhere near perfect, and we need to put aside our differences to just make it better.

It’s been a few days since the attack, and life on campus seems to be back to normal. Finals are around the corner and life goes on. Personally, I’m fighting all of my bad habits and trying to be physically healthy so my mind is too. I learned from my therapist that mindfulness is the best thing you can do for yourself, so exercise, eating healthy and meditating are at the top of my to-do list. 

I hope my fellow Buckeyes are taking the steps they need to feel comfortable again because Ohio State really is a magical place. The possibilities are endless and the energy is electric, and I refuse to let anyone take that away from me.