I found out when someone I knew pinged me in Discord, asking if I was okay.
I was confused at first about what he meant. I had planned to head out to campus that evening, but got diverted due to an issue with my Asterisk PBX. *1
My buddy linked me to an article (I've included a link to an archived version; the live URL has since been updated with updates from the next day.)
"Two dead, multiple wounded." he said.
I was shocked. I have friends at MSU, I go there often and my dad even works there. I switched to another Discord server that I was in, one for Spartans. Chat was moving a mile a minute. One of my friends lived on campus, so I texted to see if she was okay -- I didn't get a quick response, so I then called my dad to see if he was alright.
"I saw the email," he said, referring to a mass mailing sent out by MSU Public Safety. "I went home a few hours ago, so I'm alright."
In the Spartan Discord server, hundreds of people were talking, some listening to an internet feed of a police scanner; others were asking about where to go, and trying to eke out any usable information from the flying rumors and confused analyses. "Barricade your dorm room door," one person said, "then turn off the lights and keep quiet."
My friend still hadn't gotten back to me. By now, I'd found the police scanner and was mentally trying to match up what I was hearing with ideas of where she could be -- I had heard rumors of one of those killed being a girl. I sent her another message. A few minutes later, she finally got back to me. "I'm okay, I'm safe." Phew. We talked very briefly. "This is crazy," she said. "My roommate and I put a dresser in front of the door."
"Are you listening to the scanner?"
"I'm not, but it's quiet where we're at."
The evening dragged on, peppered with the occasional contact from friends who were checking on me, and some chatting with friends and family. One of the things that was unclear for most of the evening was the scope of the attack. The scanner traffic was mixed between people coordinating evacuations of students to safe locations, as well as reports of people with guns, bombs, across campus. I later figured out that what I was hearing was the emergency dispatcher sending people to check on reports that had been called in.
Around midnight, clearer details had come through. The suspect had left campus and gone closer towards the greater Lansing area, and having been confronted by police, turned his gun on himself. At some point I found out that the location of some of the shooting had been the Union building -- the same place I'd planned on going to before going home to troubleshoot my PBX.
Whoa. Lucky, maybe. Blessed, more likely.
Since then, I've been trying to cope with what happened. It's been a bit over a day now. Even though I'm not a student, MSU has been for years a place for me to walk, relax, think, and occasionally socialize. Sometimes I enjoyed taking evening walks next to the Red Cedar River, or visiting the dairy store, or just taking a seat by the river and whistling a tune. I'm not sure how I feel about any of that anymore.
I'm hoping to meet up with my friend at some point this week.
Tuesday morning, I visited the Sparty statue on campus. I left a few flowers.
I'm not really sure where to go from here.