Candlelight vigil helps FSU students heal
University provides counselors for students after shooting
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A prayer service was held in Moore Auditorium at Florida State University. This came in wake of Thursday's shooting at Strozier Library. University police say 31-year old Myron May, an FSU graduate, shot three people before he was killed by police. Two of the victims are still in the hospital.
The turnout was so tremendous that there were not enough seats. Students and members of the community prayed together, talked, and encouraged each other to take the next step forward after the tragedy.
Sam Huxford was in the library during the attack.
"I was scared, but I knew being a Christian, and that my faith was in God...if anything happened to my body, I knew that I would end up in Heaven. So I had that hope. That definitely kept me strong going through," said Huxford.
He was on the second floor of the library when the shots were fired.
"You don't ever think that you will be in one of those situations. It's just, reality sets in, 'I'm in this, I could potentially die,'" said Huxford. "You start to think about your loved ones. I just got married three months ago."
For these students, it was evident that the courage to move forward is fueled by strength.
Students are looking forward to the library reopening at 9 a.m. on Friday.
This was not the first step that FSU took to help heal the student body and community.
Thursday afternoon thousands also gathered for a candlelight vigil.
Rather than cramming for exams, thousands of students surrounded Integration Statue near Strozier library to honor those shot and to pray for their quick recovery. As the sun set, campus leaders held a candlelight vigil and spoke about the incident with the Seminole student body.
Students lifted their candles and their spirits as they paused for a moment of silence, sang and reflected, ending the vigil in FSU's signature war chant.
"When you hurt one of us, you hurt all of us," said FSU President John Thrasher, "But we are a family, and nothing can divide us."
Senior Caroline Tesch was in the basement when the shooting began.
"We heard people saying there was a shooter, so we grabbed as much as we could," Tesch said. "We were really lucky we were right next to a door that led to the outside and a maintenance man was able to let us out, and we just sprinted as fast as we could away and came to the union and waited for someone to pick us up. So we were very, very lucky to get out."
At first, some students in the library thought all the commotion was a joke -- even a flash mob, but when people started knocking over chairs, screaming "Gun!" they realized it was very real.
Freshman Shelby Davis, from Jacksonville, watched the shooting from her bedroom window that faces Strozier library.
"It's so surreal. I woke up this morning and I kept praying that this was just a dream," Davis said. "Last night we were running around making sure everyone on our floor was okay, and we had a couple girls on our hall still in there, and it was just really scary."
Students commended the police's quick response and agreed if they were not able to stop the shooter so quickly, more people likely would have been affected.
"It feels like a small campus despite the size and this just shows that we all do feel like one small community, despite the fact that there are thousands of us," Tesch said.
FSU students also gathered earlier in the day for a prayer circle.
Hundreds of students and faculty members came together near Landis Fountain outside the library and prayed, sang and held hands as they comforted.
Many students said they're saddened and confused, but they are hanging in there and doing what they can to support one another. They said they will become a stronger university from this, and they continue to pray for the victims and their families.
"Everyone reacts differently to this stuff, but I think the best we can do is stick together and understand we have to grow and learn from this," student Katherine Boener said. "So be there for each other. This kind of stuff only makes people stronger."
Boener proudly sang her university's alma mater, along with hundreds of her classmates. They sang, chanted, held hands and hugged as they tried to piece together how this tragedy could happen on their very own campus.
John Churey said it's going to be tough to deal with, but he's confident FSU will get through this.
"You can tell just from looking around everyone is very confused," Churey said. "We're not sure what to do. I feel the circle we just formed is symbolic of our protection of each other and our Seminole tribe and our pride and unity with everyone."
A prayer of comfort for the school and healing for the three victims and their families led the prayer circle.
Freshman Glennika Walker heard the gunshots from her dorm room. She said she is proud of her fellow Seminoles and can't stop thinking about the three who were hurt.
"I pray they're OK and they recover, and I hope their families are OK, and I hope they know they have this entire Florida State family behind them that loves them and wants them to be OK," Walker said.
Meanwhile, FSU is providing counselors and assistance for students who need it.
"These kinds of incidents always increase everyone's anxiousness and worry. That is a normal response," said Andrew King, director of the University of North Florida's Counseling Center.
King said university counseling centers make it a point to be there for the students in any situation. He said group sessions are a good way to heal when multiple people are affected by similar instances.
"In my role, we call it processing the incident, or sometimes it's called debriefing, but it's very healing to talk with others about what it was like," King said.
He said sharing these experiences with others who also went through it can help victims feel some type of normalcy.
King said UNF's Counseling Center also focuses on prevention, and that's why it has an active shooter video on its website, as well as tips to survive and fight.
"We can minimize the traumatic impact if the person says, 'Oh, there is an active shooter and now I remember I'm supposed to run away,'" King said.
FSU is urging its students to call the counselor line on campus at 850-644-2003.
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