The Story of a Mass Shooting Survivor and Anthropologist


On April 30, my Liberal Studies class, framed as Anthropology and Philosophy of Science (Syllabus), was the site of a horrific event. Two of my students were killed while four more were injured. I will not share their names as to protect them, although that information is available elsewhere. I will use broad terms or titles here–when possible– as to provide some protection to the people involved and I refuse to speak or write the name of the person that took these blossoming young people from their parents, their loved ones, me, and their future.

I want to write this down, both to document the events from my perspective and to correct some of the misinformation that is abound in news articles from around the world. Also, I’m an anthropologist and so I believe that it is important to engage with this topic anthropologically, just superficially now, but in more depth and with more vigor when I am emotionally and mentally able to do so.


So what actually went down inside the room? I arrived to the classroom a couple of minutes after 5:15. It was the first day of final presentations and so I needed to have everything in place and to check in with the students. The final presentations are a culmination of a semester project where the teams work in permanent teams to address some issue in human sciences. Teams can pick anything and the topics this semester were:

  • CTE
  • Animal testing
  • Video games and violence
  • Drug abuse and polcy
  • Historical discourse on neanderthal evolution
  • Genetics
  • GMO and hormone use in food
  • Climate change
  • The social consequences of AI
  • Static versus dynamic universe
  • Tobacco and the media
  • Wind Turbine Syndrome
  • Shifts in the ethics of medical treatments
  •  Disassociative Identity Disorder and representation

After getting the computer ready, I walked around the room checking on the teams. The classroom is not a typical classroom. Instead of being a long lecture hall, it is very wide, with 14 tables situated around the edges of the room. Each table has three laptops, a flatscreen TV, and frosted glass boards to write on. The classroom is designed for active learning. See a photograph of the room below:

Image result for uncc kennedy 236

I try to make direct contact with each team before class starts to see if they need anything. I though it was particularly important on April 30 since it was the last day of classes before the final exam period and students can become quite stressed.

This was the case. Two teams were very stressed about their final presentations. Only five teams were presenting on the 30th while the rest were presenting during our final exam period on May 7. I told those teams that learning to prioritize is an important skill to learn in college and if working on the project is a greater priority than watching the presentations then they should do that (I am paraphrasing here as I don’t remember my exact words but this is the information that I conveyed).

One of the teams that was presenting that day asked if they could leave after they presented, I checked the presentation order, and told them of course. I then informed them that they were the last team to go so they were welcome to head out afterwards. The team next to them, who was also presenting, over heard and asked if the same was true for them; could they leave after the presented. I explained that the other team was going last so they had the special privilege to depart immediately after their presentation. We all laughed.

At this point, we were three minutes past the start of class and so we needed to begin the presentations. Each presentation is ten minutes and can be presented however they choose. I joke that “you can do a PowerPoint presentation, a video, skits, a news cast, a hip hop performance, a puppet show (which a team has done before!). I don’t care but you have ten minutes! A quick note: there is a rubric that the students use that has the main things I am looking for. How they get there is up to them. I sit at an empty table facing the television, prepared to evaluate the student’s work.

The first presentation is a video on static versus dynamic universe. It is quite good, using a lot of data and contextualizing it in a cultural context. We get about seven minutes into the video and without warning, earsplitting bangs ring throughout the room, off the glass walls, creating a terrible reverberation.

Students, in great confusing, begin to run. As a student told me after the events, “At first I thought it was part of the presentation or someone setting off large firecrackers.” Terror set in and we took off for the opposite door (there are two exits at each far end of the room). I stood up and kicked the chair I was sitting in away from the walkway and move towards the door, ushering students in that direction. I make it to the door, out the door and hold it open for the rushing students. One student falls down in the door way and is stepped on, I pick them up and move them back with the flow of traffic.

After exiting the room, we exit through the doors into the building’s foyer, then out the doors and down the stairs into a large courtyard, surrounded by classroom and office buildings, with a berm and fountain at the center. The students are scattering and running for their lives, in all directions. I grab a few students and rush towards a close building. I know if we make it there, we can go up the stairs to the second floor and into my office. This would put two locked doors between us and danger. We rushing yelling “ACTIVE SHOOTER!”

When we approach the anthropology department, the door is still open so we rush in. We slam the door. The department chair is still in his office so we choose there. We enter the office and shut the door. I immediately tell the chair to call 911 and that there was an active shooter. He calls. I am settling the students while the chair is on the phone and I am feeding him information about the location of the shooting.

We move away from the windows and wait for the all clear. The university quickly sends out active shooter warnings to email and cellphones. After approximately four minutes (however it felt like four hours) we see police officers rushing by the building in the direction of the incident.

The students that I have in the room with me are expressing different emotional responses: crying, disbelief, shock… Most their things were left in the classroom and so some did not even have their phones to call family, The chair and I made ours available.


After what seemed like forever, we heard a hard bang on the door to the department, “CMPD!”. The chair exits the room, opens the door and the officer directs us down a set of stairs and to exit with our hands up. We make our way and eventually convene on the east side of campus. We are informed that the shooter is in custody. Several of my brave students were already there and we embraced. They were giving their statements to the police.

I talk to several police officers; my chair remains with me and my students throughout the endeavor. We wait and eventually I am told that detectives would like my statement and I was instructed to walk to the front of the university for transportation to facility to be interviewed.

They take us in vans to an abandoned Kohl’s near campus. The police bring in wraps to eat, and lemonade and sweet tea to drink. They were very professional, accommodating, and gentle. I am the first person to be interviewed. After I was interviewed I remained with my students, comforting them and offering support in any way I could. The police bring in counselors and we are instructed to sit down with them. After talking, the counselors provided us with city resources for counselling for the future.

My wonderful partner picks me up, we go to my car on campus. Campus is still mostly locked down and we have to go the long way around to get to my car. My former graduate advisor and friend invites my partner and I to his house for dinner (it is now close to 10pm). We drive over and he and his wife (also a former professor of mine and inspiration) cook for us and provide me with the immediate support. Without my partner and my former professors, I think I would have slipped into a dire mental state. But they uplifted me and again remind me that I am loved and that I am so lucky to have them as friends and family.

I eventually go home just before midnight (we live very close by). No sleep. I got no sleep at all until around midnight on May 2. Again, on the night of May 1, my former advisor treat us to dinner, Ethiopian food (one of my favorites). We go back to his house afterwards and talk for several hours. I go home. Sleep. Now I am writing this all down.


To reiterate, I will not write his name. No one should speak it. We should not glorify him as it contributes to this kind of violence while continually traumatizing the victims and survivors.

The shooter was registered for the course. On the first day in their permanent teams, I give the students time to get to know one another. I walk around the room, chat, and continue to develop rapport with my students. The shooter tells me their name and I comment that it is the same as one of my friends (a great archaeologist!) and we will read an article at the end of the semester by the scholar.

Early in the semester, the shooter is engaged with the course material. They ask questions about the lessons, answer questions that I pose to the class. It was completely typical.

Eventually the shooter no longer came to class and I found out that they withdrew from the course. It is still January.

I run into the shooter on campus shortly after (I am guessing either late January or VERY early February) and conveyed that it was a shame that they had to leave the course but I understood. It is important to prioritize. That was the last time I saw the shooter.


Many of the students were able to quickly evacuate the room, but not all. Through discussions with victims, survivors, I was able to get an idea of what happened. Before opening fire, the shooter said nothing, did not indicate that they were going to shoot; simply raised the gun and started to fire.

It was all over in a matter of second. One student tackled the shooter and undoubtedly saved more lives. They are an absolute hero.

The shooter emptied the magazine, laid the gun down, and sat on the ground.

One victim asked the shooter to stop shooting and they said “I’m done.”

Some victims and survivors were able to run out of the room then and to a building next door where they took cover. One victim was treated by a student for the wound and shock. EMS showed up a bit later.

Not all of the students made it out. One victim was too injured to exit the room. Two others were pronounced dead at the scene.


My emotions are currently high and I am absolutely heartbroken. My students are incredibly special to me and I try to make that known throughout the semester. I am still trying to get a handle on my personal feelings surrounding this and I find it cathartic to engage with it anthropologically.

I love being an anthropologist and I am lucky to have such an amazing discipline from which I have received a tremendous outpouring of love and support. I received thousands of emails and messages from anthropologists from all over the world. Many were anthropologists that I admire and are formative to my thought and approach to the discipline. The American Anthropological Association reached out to me and gave their complete support, both personally and professionally, including backing me if I want to take this up to congress. I love my discipline and my colleagues they make the discipline what it is.

Now on to a reflection on the events. We often like to offer simply solutions to problems that we construct as being simple. People point to all kinds of quick-acting solutions: ban guns, get rid of gun-free zones, mental health…

The discourse tends to lean on one magical solution to correcting this issue when it is so much more complicated than what is on offer. People often point to the proximate causes of these tragedies and offer solutions to these proximate causes: mental health, ban guns, etc.

However, the issue is that there is rarely an appeal to solutions for ultimate causes. Why is it that mass shootings happen at such a frequency in the United States? I think pointing to structural issues is a start.

  1. The lack of socioeconomic security and the disillusionment that comes along with it. People can’t be sure of their futures given the instability and vast amount of socioeconomic inequality.
  2. I’ve been thinking about Durkheim and reapplying his notions of suicide to America society in light of the prevalence of suicide nowadays. According to Curtin et al. (2016), suicide rates have increased 2% per year from 2006-2016. Why might it be that this occurs. Durkheim created a typology of suicides and while typologies are not objective categories, they are interesting frameworks for thinking about causes. The two that apply best here are egoistic suicide and anomic suicide (Durkheim 2005). While we are not addressing suicide here, these two types may also apply to understanding the unacceptable frequency of mass shootings. 
    1. Egoistic refers to a lack of social integration and the prolonged sense of not belonging associated with it. Durkheim causes this “excessive individuation.” I believe that this is a huge problem and we have seen an trend of increased individuation, particularly since the late 1970s. Since individuation leads to a disintegration of social binding, people can become depressed, hopeless, listless, and left with little social guidance.One can easily make this observation by observing people moving through the world. Sit in on a bench and watch people walk by on the sidewalk. People bury themselves in their phone and fail to acknowledge that others exist outside of themselves in a very solipsistic kind of way.

      Furthermore, we are constructed in society as individuals and self-entrepreneurs. We all have unique identities and so there is very little that binds us socially.

    2. The second type the applies here is Anomic. This type refers to a lock of moral regulation and moral norms. This may follow as a logical extension of the lack of social integration discussed above. The lack of moral integration and norms, some moral thread that ties people together leads to disintegration. Here I am not arguing that everyone needs to be the same religion or any religion for that matter but that we fail to adhere to a shared sense of value and meaning that binds citizens and our guests together in unity.

I believe that addressing the structural issues that allow for mass shootings to be the consequence is key to preventing them in the future. We have a moral obligation to each other, our children, and future generations to tackle this now and head on. Reducing inequality, providing our citizens with security in life, and coming together to strive for a better future for all is our duty as citizens of our country and the world.


This is my story and these are my thoughts. I will not field any further questions about the events, disclose any names, or talk to the media. The information in this essay belongs to me and my students and any use of the information above needs to correctly cite me and this essay.

Curtin, Sally C.; Warner, Margaret; Hedegaard, Holly (April 2016). “Increase in suicide in the United States, 1999-2014. NCHS Data Brief No. 214”

Durkheim, E. (2005). Suicide: A study in sociology. Routledge.


93 Comments Add yours

  1. Olivia says:

    I graduated from UNCC with a degree in Criminal Justice and I spend HOURS studying and trying to understand cases like this. You and your students’ perspectives are key and I truly appreciate you for sharing. My thoughts are with you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Renee says:

    From one professor to another, my heart grieves for you and your students. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on a way forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cyezer says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and especially one Anth to another thank you for trying to put this into a social analysis. I’m so glad our colleagues reached out to you too. I hope you & your students get all the support you need to recover from this trauma, and that you continue your own work soon, and perhaps even continue to analyze this in an anthropological perspective. You are courageous and strong, and our schools need more folks like you

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too teach at UNCC and will use your blog post as a point of departure for student discussion in class next fall. Thank you for the work you do and my heart goes out to you and all involved. Let us build a better world each day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gigi Colley says:

    Thank you for documenting your experience. My daughter is a student at UNCC. She had left campus be for this took place. I live in Maine. She is very far away from me. I have been trying to read anything I can about this event. Trying to understand, wanting to connect for my daughter.
    I am an ER nurse and I see mental illness every day, anxiety, depression. My colleagues and I ask ourselves every day why is suicide, depression and mass shootings so prevalent. I appreciated your views on this topic. I learned something and it gives me something to start to hold onto. Something we can use to start educating our families, friends and even our patients.
    Thank you for documenting your experience. I pray for you and your students, the community, for continued healing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There some misquotes in your article.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I wish the best for you, your students, and anyone impacted by this tragedy.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ashley says:

    I’m a PhD student in public health at UNCC, and I just want to thank you for posting about your experience and your thoughts related to the structural issues we must address in our country. I’ll be thinking of you and your students in the time to come, and hope that sharing your story has provided some much needed catharsis. Your students are lucky to have such a thoughtful person guiding their learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Chris Bayliss says:

    I had this same class with you Adam in the summer of 2018. It was a great experience. Adam you are and were a great Teacher for me and I have much respect for you and this class. I am in sorrow for what your students and you had to endure. You will be missed at UNCC. Good Luck with your PHD.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Anne says:

    Thank you. Thank you for sharing. My heart pounded as I read. My son is a student at UNCC. I am blessed that he is home with me. We are thinking of you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. rebeccaruhlen says:

    I’m an anthropologist with past ties to UNCC, still in the Charlotte area. You and your students have been much on my mind and heavy on my heart since I first heard of this horrific act.

    I am in awe of your ability and your drive to document and analyze these experiences, drawing on your anthropological training and vision — at all, let alone ~48 hours after it happened.

    Reading this, I realized that I had always assumed in a vague speculative way that surviving a classroom shooting would surely lead many instructors to change careers. I do not know what lies in store for you professionally after this trauma, but it is clear to me that whatever you do, you will always be an anthropologist.

    Thank you for exemplifying so much that is admirable and timeless about our discipline. Please take exquisitely good care of yourself in the days, months, and years ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. SJPBF says:

    Give this anthropologist tenure, stat. Thank you for this thoughtful perspective,and for the love you bring to your work in the classroom. What a rich place UNCC is with you as part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ally M says:

    Mr. Johnson, thank you for your essay and your thoughts. They have helped me come to a better understanding of my personal healing journey. I graduate May 10th, and my anthropology course was my favorite class I ever took with UNCC. I am absolutely heartbroken and horrified at what has happened, but I want to make a difference. Thank you for supporting your students and being a blessed light to us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Emily Dubis says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing this. I’m so very sorry. My son was scheduled to present on May 7th in your class—so many emotions. You mentioned possibly going to congress—please let me know how I can help if/when you’re ready.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Archon says:

    “I’m done”…?

    What’s the actual reasoning, sounds like the shooter lost the whole point about revenge on society and assassinations, et cetra. Can’t even dare to kill the right people, or didn’t even think of picking a target for all the blame? Is this a pointless murder designed to be especially pointless?

    Here’s to the victims and wounded, I still don’t understand why anyone tried to hurt them.


  15. I am a senior who was on campus when the shooting happened. I was just outside Kennedy 20 minutes before, debating on going into Prospector to eat and hang out with a friend. I instead decided to head off to Woodward to finish up a project.

    I am so sorry you had to experience this tragedy first-hand; i was a 5-10 minute walk away from it all and i am still trying to process all that happened…why it happened. Thank you for writing down your perspective on what went down that unforgettable day. Let us continue to support one another through these trying times; we will all get through this together! #CharlotteStrong


  16. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for sharing your insight, wisdom and pain. I hope people read your thoughts and walk away with a greater sense of urgency about fixing our society. I am also a teacher and that job has become so incredibly complicated. Keep up the fight, don’t give up on your passion: teaching and anthropology.


  17. Linda Soule says:

    I am confused. I first heard the shooter kicked open the door and started shooting. The next i heard he was sitting down and stood up and began shooting. Which version is correct….


    1. My back was turned when the shooting started but the door was not kicked open. I didn’t hear the door open or close.


      1. John Crooks says:

        My son Jack was at table 5 right by the door. He said the gunman kicked the door open, walked straight in and started shooting.

        So sad and senseless. We are praying for everyone impacted by this especially you and the students in the room at the time. John

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Christian S says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your thoughts. My son already graduated from UNCC and my youngest daughter will start in the fall.
    I very much appreciate your perspective and please be assured that I will be praying for you, your students and your families.


  19. Kendall Kerr says:

    Thank you for sharing! You are a hero too! Everyone at UNCC will grow closer through this horrible event. We’ll continue praying for everyone affected.

    -Former student in that exact room 4 years prior


  20. Judy Williams says:

    As a counselor educator, I recognize the need to process this from our academic discipline. It is our default. May you find the space and place to safely and gradually process all you have gone through as a part of your human experience. Be kind to yourself, leave the research and best practices for others to explore, and allow yourself to feel. It is hard work, but so necessary. May you be the very last professor/teacher to ever have to experience this.


  21. Jennifer McGee says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m a professor of education at a nearby state university and I mourn with you both the loss of a sense of safety in an educational space and your precious students.


  22. Rebecca Waterson says:

    When my team shared this post between our group, I was too scared to read it, I didn’t want to relive it, but I knew that it was important. I hope that one day I’ll be able to share my story as well.

    It was a terrible day, and I remember asking those from the class I saw if anyone saw you get out. I had ran to Colvard, and there were no other classmates with me. I was terrified. I didn’t know who else had gotten out, I couldn’t see my classmates, and I didn’t know if you were okay. My teammates eventually got phones and were able to get in contact– one of them had seen you get out, and I found out the details of the attack late that night. I can’t explain the relief I felt when I was home and safe.

    Thank you for everything. Thank you for helping us. I’m so sorry this happened to us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you’re safe. I’m so sorry that this happened to you and I am here for you if you need me. You all are so special to me.


  23. Kristin says:

    Associate Professor at Francis Marion University with several Professor friends at UNCC. I panicked when I saw what was happening. Your essay is thoughtful, thought-provoking, and had me in tears. Thank you for sharing your perspective and thoughts. You are so right that everyone is quick to comment on solutions when mass shootings are not an easily solvable problem. My heart goes out to you and your students. It is something that I, and my fellow colleagues, dread the thought of, and I cannot imagine your pain. All I can say is that much love and sympathies are coming from South Carolina right now. Thank you again for sharing this story. Very thoughtful and insightful.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Lopamudra says:

    I am glad that you are safe and alive. I can also understand the mental state of you right now. It took a lot of courage to jot down the story and sharing with us. The bond between you and your student will become more stronger than ever. This traumatic incident made us feel helpless and at the same time extremely frustrating, because we listen without able to help in anyway. My heartfelt condolence is with you for your ,students and their families . Take care of yourself as well .

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Joseph Kellam says:

    Adam, I haven’t seen you in years I hate that you and your students had to experience this senseless tragedy. Reading the actions you took that day comes as no surprise to me. You have always been a caring individual and a great leader! Please do not let this stop you from being the individual you are! Keep dancing to the beat of your own drum! Love you brother!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. William Hunt says:

    I’m sorry but I didn’t see your name. How to cite?


  27. jonnylaw37 says:

    Thank you. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for saving lives. Thank you for giving a well-reasoned perspective and not just a knee-jerk reaction. Our community is blessed to have you as part of it. Our world needs more people like you in it. Thank you.


  28. Sarah C says:

    As the mother of a UNCC student, thank you for your perspective. I am so sorry for what you and the rest of the school community have endured.

    My son – a track star and criminal justice major – is graduating next week. He happens to be a lovely Ethiopian American, adopted ten years ago. You have great taste in food.


    1. Thank you so much! Ethiopian food was the only food that I thought would bring me comfort. It’s my favorite.



  29. Gail Ostman says:

    I am so sorry Mr. Johnson that you, and your students, had to endure such a tragedy. My daughter is currently an associate professor at UNCC, and I was quite terrified when I heard the news. Yet, I knew it was just a matter of time. Unfortunately, in today’s world these shootings can be expected. I totally agree with you about the loss of morals that bind us together. People have been going to church less and less since the 1970’s, therefore they have lost their moral foundation on which to build their families. I wrote a parenting book which begins with family rules that state “Respect Yourself” “Respect Others” “Respect Everything”. My dream is that every family, and every government would follow there rules.
    I wish you well in your recovery from this tragic event. As I too have been in a similar situation my advice to you is take it slow, be good to yourself, and Respect Yourself First, then others… Take Care Adam!!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  30. My heart goes out to you and your students and their families. I am dean of public health at UNC Chapel Hill. you all are in our hearts and minds. thank yo for the gut wrenching piece you have written. It adds to the many public health articles that have been written about gun violence by providing a new (and old) perspective on the social context of shootings. Thank you for being able, in the midst of tragedy, to find resilience and meaning. Barbara Rimer

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Samuel N. Modise says:

    What a moving article. I will continue to pray for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Anonymous says:

    Hello Professor Johnson,
    I just wanted to tell you thank you for sharing your story and I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I was enrolled in your class Antropolgy and philophy of science but I decided to drop it earlier this semester because my load of work was too heavy. I only realized yesterday, that was the classroom of this horrible incident and I could have easily been in the room with you and my peers as this event occurred. God was really watching over me. I can’t even imagine what you are experiencing right now but I will pray for you every day.


  33. Emanuela Bianchi says:

    As a former professor at UNC Charlotte, I found this vivid account and analysis both informative and chilling. Thank you so very much for taking the time to put this into words. I also want to congratulate you on your wonderful and carefully formulated syllabus. I hope you take the time you need to heal from this profound trauma, and that you will in time continue your fantastic work and indeed flourish in the profession.


  34. Ellen says:

    Thank you for posting this. But most of all, thank you for showing up and supporting us in the hospital! It would have been so easy for you to take the easy road and stay home, but you were there for us and you will never know how much we truly appreciated that! I really hate that you are leaving UNCC but our family is wishing you the best of luck!


  35. palamity says:

    I am a faculty member at a university in Georgia. I worry every single day this will happen to me and my students. Please know you are loved and supported. 💚


  36. jackelisland says:

    I can’t find the story. All I see are these comments. I keep clicking everywhere to read the essay, and I can’t find it.


  37. Kim Merrill says:

    May God bless you for sharing this account of the tragic events of April 30! As a Mother of a present UNCC junior I greatly appreciate being able to put these events into perspective! It could have been my child as easily as any other who lost their life! I will be keeping you and your partner, all those affected by this horrible tragedy, the survivors(because you are now brave survivors) and especially the family and loved ones of the victims in my prayers!
    The CMPD and Security Department of UNCC are certainly to be commended on their quick actions and attention to the situation on that day! Thank you to each of them as well!


  38. KaRi says:

    Did the shooter indicate he had interest in a 10 minute report on the subject of Gun Violence as is presentation?

    Do you think teach conflict resolution during grade school would lessen these mass shootings?

    Also, what are your thoughts on the Video Games where you get extra points for killing family members, etc. and the accessibility to young and immature minds?

    My nephew (JG) at UNC share your article on his Facebook page.

    I’m so sorry for your experience and glad you led others to safety. Just remember your support system during flashbacks


  39. Carole Copp says:

    What powerful narrative of your experience. Praying for all of you.


  40. I am a former teacher. You have experienced what we all fear. Back when I was a student at UNCC in the 1980’s, the thought of someone coming on campus to shoot others never entered my mind. Our world has changed. We must work to understand why. My thoughts have been with all those involved. My heart breaks for the families of those that were killed. I truly appreciate your sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Deborah Walberg says:

    I am a professor at a small university in Pennsylvania – we all receive active shooter training, but I realized after mine that in my classroom there is nowhere to hide, no way to escape, and that an active shooter situation will be devastating and most likely fatal – for me and my students. You have just lived out my greatest fear – and you were superb.

    Academics often get a bad rap from the public because the average American does not realize how much more is involved in our job description than just lecturing 15 hours a week. In addition to our administrative responsibilities and maintaining our research profiles, with the alarming increase in fatal campus incidents we now must assume the roll of guardian for the next generation while they are in our classroom. We do it because of the love we bear for our students, our disciplines, and the absolute necessity of quality education for every young person, regardless of race, social status, gender, or creed. You acted selflessly and fearlessly to protect those young people. You are a true hero. I hope that you will find peace in the wake of tragedy.

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Tori Ekstrand says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and your knowledge here, and we send love and support from Chapel Hill.


  43. bill wolfe says:

    If the shooter dropped out of your class in January and you knew that, what was he doing in your class on the final day of group presentations? You mention that you touched base with the groups before class began. Were you aware that he was in the room? Did you find that unusual? If not, why not? If so, why didn’t you ask him why he was there?


    1. I don’t know if he was in the room when I was walking around the class. When I was on that side of the room, he was not there.


    2. S Neumann says:

      Good analytical questions – I am so sorry for each person’s trama, the “what if” games never work and second guessing and shame and guilt do not heal; however an assessment in “lessons learned” or “post mortem” in this case is important, but who of us expects sick individuals, we still think all people will behave decently and morally. I hope everyone involved can go through hypnosis versus counseling as counseling just keeps it alive and they will relive the events and keep mental triggers on a daily basis. It does seem like the “presentation day” may have been a sick “trigger” for the shooter as if he couldn’t perform and why he dropped out. Many young adults cannot cope with real life issues of work and responsibilities and what is morally wrong and right. Good parenting for these children are in order. I went to a funeral recently where a mother suffered from the fact her 40+ son was killed in a drive-by shooting in Boston. She feels he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A friend and I know, generally the drive-bys are planned specifically to know who would be there. At the funeral, an old, black minister sang “Christ is the Answer” and it sunk into my bones deeply as it was other worldly. Statistically we are an unchurched nation and we break the very commandments that God said were to help us. I support all the amendments and if researched they were based upon Godly principles. Education cannot change the heart. We as a nation need a heart change and just perhaps the very old retired minister’s poignant song should be heard by all. Deepest sympathies and prayers for healing and the journey to come.


  44. Peter says:

    I found your moving blog from a link by a commenter to the NYTimes article about Riley Howell, a hero to the core. I deeply appreciate your connection to your students and feel for all of you who are having to deal with this. On a positive note, my takeaway from reading about this is that there is much more beauty and strength in humanity than there is darkness. Stay strong, you are having a positive impact far and wide. (I’m in Romania).


  45. Michelle says:

    Thank you for sharing such deep and intimate details about your thoughts and what happened that day. It is important for us to never stop searching for the answer to “why does this happen?”. If we stop, then that means we have given up and after seeing how the UNC Charlotte community came together, I don’t believe anyone has given up. We want to help unhealthy people, we want to understand how we can prevent this in the future, and we want to understand how to help people cope and heal. Your story contributed to all of that. Thank you.


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