Many of you know that I go to the University of Central Florida. Further, many of you probably already know what happened to the UCF family yesterday. For those that don’t, I’ll clue you in.
At about 12:30 AM yesterday the fire alarms went off in one of the residence halls on campus. Students are fairly used to fire alarms being pulled. What they aren’t used to is cops coming through the halls with what has been described by multiple people as machine guns. As they were rushing to get outside, a student was in his room killing himself. He was found with a handgun, assault rifle, and IEDs (improvised explosive devices, or bombs basically). When the fire alarm had been pulled, the student’s roommate came out of his room to find the man with the gun and promptly locked himself inside his room and called 911. He easily saved so many people’s lives.
The cops got in and took the roommate out to safety, the building was searched, and the crime scene was investigated. Hundreds of students were left with only the things they thought to grab as they ran out the door until about 5:00 PM that evening. The university was entirely shut down until noon.
Classes were subdued. No one was particularly sad. After all, we didn’t know this boy and there’s a good chance that he was planning on killing as many of us as possible. But even still, a heaviness settled over the campus. The clouds were grey and suffocating. We didn’t seem to really know how to react other than to talk about it, spread rumors we had heard, wonder who the boy had been.
More than that though, the what-ifs were hanging in the air like a disease. What if he had succeeded? What if he had shot his roommate and then any other students in his hall he could find in the mayhem of the fire alarm? What if he want up one floor and killed my friend that lives in that building? What if he had come into the office I work in and set off a bomb, killing me and all of my coworkers? Those scenarios could of course all happen at any moment in time but yesterday the possibility was real, touchable, visceral. Every student, faculty, and staff member thought about their mortality yesterday. How could you not?
UCF handled itself extremely well, I think. Accommodations were made for the displaced students. Free food, tooth brushes, and a place to lie down in the Arena should they need it. Yesterday could have been a true tragedy. It wasn’t and for that I am forever grateful. Yesterday was not a tragedy but it was a wake up call.
To all of my UCF brothers and sisters, I’m glad we’re all okay. Let’s stay that way for a while.