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Marching band sends messages of support after Michigan State shooting

University of Minnesota students and faculty react to the Michigan State shooting.
Image by Allison Skarda
Members of the marching band sent cards to Michigan’s marching band on Feb. 24 to show their support.

The University of Minnesota marching band sent cards on Feb. 24 to the Michigan State University (MSU) marching band to show support after a shooting at the East Lansing campus killed three students.

Amanda Kumbera, a second-year clarinet player, said she remembered making cards for high school band members after a man drove through the Waukesha Christmas Parade, killing six people, in 2021. Following the Michigan State shooting, the band wanted to make cards again for the MSU marching band.

“I thought that [sending cards] would be something good to do for the Michigan State marching band to show that, even though we’re technically rival schools, we’re still there for them and we care about them,” Kumbera said.

Kumbera emailed professor Elizabeth McCann, one of the directors of the marching band, the morning she heard about the shooting. Kumbera and McCann put cards out around Huntington Bank Stadium encouraging marching band members to write messages of support.

“I did it because I know if that was us in that position, having support from other schools in the Big Ten would be incredibly important,” Kumbera said.

Kumbera said the shooting hit close to home because it occurred at another Big Ten school.

“In middle school and high school, I heard about shootings at other high schools and it sucked, and it made me sad, but there was always the mentality of ‘Oh, it will never happen to me,’” Kumbera said. “And then seeing it happen in another Big Ten school, was like, ‘Oh, okay, it can happen to me.’”

University student from East Lansing shares perspective

Maybelle Newcombe is a second-year student who grew up a five-minute drive away from MSU’s campus in East Lansing. She maintains communication with many childhood friends who now attend MSU.

Newcombe was at a sorority event when she received a text from one of her friends saying there was an active shooter at the Michigan State Union.

Her friend told her she was walking to the Union when she noticed people running away from the building. When she realized there was an active shooter inside, she ran to her car and drove to her dorm.

“When she sent me those texts, that was kind of when I realized it’s real,” Newcombe said. “It’s crazy because it’s a really small community in East Lansing. Everybody knows everybody.”

Newcombe said no one expected a shooting to ever happen in such a small town.

Newcombe said she returned home from her sorority event and spent the next four hours texting her friends and family about the situation. She said some of her friends at MSU barricaded themselves in their dorms while listening to a police scanner for updates.

“At one point, my friend said the shooter was near her dorm, and she was texting us while barricading in her room,” Newcombe said. “It was really strange and scary.”

Newcombe said she stayed up longer than usual that night.

“I felt like I couldn’t really sleep without knowing what was going on in my hometown and not knowing what happened,” Newcombe said.

Newcombe said the shooting weighed heavily on her mind the following week, adding it felt strange being on the University of Minnesota’s campus knowing what happened back home.

Her other hometown friends who went to school out of state agreed that it was hard seeing their respective campuses still moving like normal while thinking about what happened at MSU.

“I feel weird and almost guilty feeling so affected and so bad about what happened when I wasn’t even there,” Newcombe said. “I know the day after it was really hard to feel motivated to do homework because why would I be? How am I so privileged to do schoolwork when everybody I know back home is in that constant state of fear?”

“It’s happening again”

Nicholas Taylor is a second-year student at the University’s law school who is involved with the Gun Violence Prevention Clinic the law school started earlier this year. Taylor said he first heard about the shooting from a news alert on his phone.

“I read the article and, you know, you get that pit in your stomach like ‘Oh no it’s happening again,’” Taylor said. “It’s another school and we’ve seen this before, and there’s instantly a twang of pain and despair.”

Megan Walsh, the director of the Gun Violence Prevention Clinic, said she immediately thought about her students and their mental health after hearing news of the shooting.

“In some ways, I feel responsible that I pulled them into this work,” Walsh said. “Gun violence affects everybody on an individual level, but working on it day-in and day-out, it feels different when you hear about shootings like what happened at Michigan State.”

Taylor works with the clinic to defend gun control laws. He said he has noticed gun regulations getting looser, particularly after the 2022 Supreme Court ruling in New York Pistol and Rifle Association v. Bruen. The Court ruled a New York law requiring a license to carry concealed weapons in public places unconstitutional.

“The MSU shooter didn’t use an AR-15, he just had two pistols and a lot of ammo,” Taylor said. “And this is exactly the type of firearm that the Supreme Court is now ruling is completely constitutional to carry in public.”

The ruling in Bruen allows exceptions for historically protected spaces such as courthouses, schools and hospitals, Taylor said.

“At least as far as Bruen is concerned, the restriction is still in place that a school can constitutionally prevent you from carrying a firearm onto campus,” Taylor said.

Walsh said working with the gun violence prevention clinic helps some students overcome the sense of powerlessness many people have in the wake of mass shootings. Taylor said his work with the gun clinic has helped him feel more hopeful for the future.

However, Walsh said she was surprised by how the shooting seemed to affect some of her students.

“I was a little bit surprised at their reaction because they seem to accept these types of shootings as part of their way of life,” Walsh said. “They have personally seen shootings in our own communities or in their own communities where they grew up, and so it was not surprising to them that this happened yet again.”

College shootings still considered rare

University President Joan Gabel sent a University system email statement the morning after the shooting acknowledging the emotions shootings can bring about for students and faculty.

“The events last evening at Michigan State University are a tragedy for all of us, and in our collective grief, we wish comfort to all who are hurting and healing, while also giving gratitude to emergency responders,” Gabel wrote in the statement.

Joachim Savelsberg is a sociology professor whose research specializes in incidents of mass violence. He said although the number of shootings on college campuses has increased in recent years, they are still very rare.

Savelsberg said despite the rarity of campus shootings, they receive a lot of media coverage because of who the victims are.

“When a college student is killed, it creates massive headlines, but there are hundreds of inner city victims of homicide that are registered every day in the United States that barely get any attention,” Savelsberg said. “When you deal with college students, they are viewed as the future elites of the country.”

Savelsberg said research shows people have different responses to incidents of mass violence that get heavy coverage in the media. One common response is that people will withdraw from public places due to fear created from violence, but Savelsberg said these tragic incidents can also help bring people together.

“In tragic situations, people in their isolation experience solidarity and shared concern, and all of that grows strength and encouragement and identification with the community,” Savelsberg said. “That identification partly neutralizes the fear that the violence itself had created.”

Lanie Rau is a second-year student studying psychology who heard about the shooting on the night it happened. She said her family was the first to call her about the situation.

“They were worried about my safety and asked if the school had sent anything out,” Rau said. “They told me that they loved me, and even though it wasn’t our campus where this happened, it was still scary.”

Rau expressed concern about how these violent incidents are often quickly forgotten by the general public.

“I feel like some shootings are definitely forgotten about way too quickly,” Rau said. “I don’t know if some people are just scared to talk about it, or simply don’t want to so that they don’t make people uncomfortable, but we can’t avoid these conversations, even if they’re difficult to have.”

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