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Trauma caused by delayed response

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August 30, 2016

2:24 PM

In the early hours of Saturday morning, posts started flooding social media outlets such as Yik Yak and Facebook’s “Overheard at William and Mary” page.

“SHOOTING AT CRUST STAY AWAY”

“Maximum of 5 rounds discharged. Heard from 3rd floor of Tribe Square.”

“Is everyone ok at the crust/bars? Did anyone get shot?”

The shots were fired around 12:50 a.m., but it wasn’t until over an hour later that an official alert went out from the College of William and Mary. The delay in notifying the public caused a lot of concern among students, many of who found out about the shooting through social media posts, which lacked all of the information.

We hear about atrocities on the news, and we refuse to believe they could happen to our family, our friends or our community. But the awful reality is that it could, and for some of us, it has.

In today’s world, when shootings are on the news daily, events like this strike a sensitive chord. We hear about atrocities on the news, and we refuse to believe they could happen to our family, our friends or our community. But the awful reality is that it could, and for some of us, it has.

I happen to be one of those people. In May 2014, my boyfriend of five years was shot and killed in a random act of violence while he was driving home. It was horribly traumatic and outside the realm of anything I had experienced before. Two years later, I still struggle to make sense of what happened and grieve his loss. With this unique perspective, I’m especially sensitive to events like the shooting at Tribe Square, and I wish it had been handled differently by the administration.

As students at the College, we rely on the College’s administration and police department to keep us informed and safe. It seems dangerous that a campus-wide alert was not immediately sent out.

Hearing about a potential active shooter situation minutes away from where you live (especially through social media) would be scary for anyone, but for students who have experienced violent trauma, it can be especially damaging.

Apart from issues of safety, this way of handling the situation created fear that could have been avoided. For a whole hour, many students were anxiously wondering if someone had been shot, if anyone had died, and whether the shooter had been apprehended. Hearing about a potential active shooter situation minutes away from where you live (especially through social media) would be scary for anyone, but for students who have experienced violent trauma, it can be especially damaging.

You never know what people have been through. In light of that fact, it’s incredibly important that events of this caliber are handled in a way that makes everyone at the College feel maximally secure and cared for.

But we are human and we don’t always handle situations perfectly. Additionally, even if the administration had notified the students more promptly, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that someone was shot at Tribe Square this weekend.

What or who can we truly rely on when everything seems out of control?

As someone who lost a loved one to violence that I couldn’t control and couldn’t prevent, I had to wrestle with where I find my security. On some level, I think we all have to. For some of you, it’s the test you studied so hard for but still failed. For others, it’s the family situation that’s crumbling back at home as you’re watching helplessly from college. At some point, we are all confronted with circumstances or situations that we cannot control. What can we stand firmly upon in all these shifting sands? What or who can we truly rely on when everything seems out of control?

Events like those of this weekend cause questions to surface, and I’d ask you to consider just one.

Where do you find your security?

Email Carley Schanck at [email protected]

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  • Carley Schanck

  • katieisawriter

    Excellent observations Carley. As a W&M alum I hope that the administration quickly develops a fast-response protocol for situations where student lives are potentially in danger. Although social media will always enable first-hand witnesses or bystanders to “report” events faster than official outlets, there have been enough instances of on-campus and proximate-campus violence at colleges nationwide affecting students that W&M officials should have a comprehensive plan in coordination with local police to communicate QUICKLY to students — even if the message is to assure students that the school is aware of the situation and that students should take all sensible safety precautions while they are actively working to understand and contain the situation.