Elon sophomore Addison Fry said the stress she felt following University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s recent lockdowns impacts her daily life — down to the start of her daily routine.
“I’ll be getting dressed in the morning and I suddenly wonder if this is going to be an outfit that is practical if I have to run away or hide from someone,” Fry said.
Fry’s concerns were sparked by UNC, Chapel Hill experiencing its second lockdown within the first month of the 2023-24 school year. Both lockdowns occurred because of armed and dangerous individuals threatening to or using firearms on campus.
On Aug. 28, UNC professor Zijie Yan was shot and killed by a UNC graduate student. Just over two weeks later on Sept. 13, UNC went into its second lockdown due to reports of an armed and dangerous individual on campus. Police reported that 27-year-old Mickel Deonte Harris was a “disgruntled boyfriend” of an employee at Alpine Bagel Cafe — located within the UNC student union. He reportedly started a verbal argument before revealing and waving around a firearm.
With UNC Chapel Hill roughly 45 minutes away from Elon University, some Elon students said they have been hyper aware and conscious of their safety.
Though Fry said she has never felt particularly in danger on campus, she said she still considers the lockdowns at UNC concerning for the Elon community.
“Universities are supposed to be a safe place, so to hear that this has happened twice at UNC is really scary and off-putting,” Fry said. “I wish I could just go to class and not worry about if someone’s gonna do something dangerous in my classes.”
Senior Mackenzie Palma is one of multiple Elon students to have direct connections to people at UNC, Chapel Hill.
Palma’s girlfriend is a student at UNC who attends classes in Caudill Labs, the same building where professor Yan was shot and killed. Palma said her girlfriend was not present when the shooting occurred, yet still fears attending classes.
“She walked by where the glass window was broken and I know she is really scared, and I am scared for her,” Palma said.
Alert Carolina announced the “All Clear” for the Sept. 13 lockdown with a message on their social media that read “All clear. All clear. Resume normal activities.” Palma said that the idea of returning to normalcy, as the post requested, was simply impossible.
“It feels different. I know a lot of people at UNC are scared and I am scared for them,” Palma said. “It’s hard to act normal and go through your normal routine being scared.”
Palma said that she believes all students should be educating themselves and taking action for change, also adding that there should be stricter gun laws.
“I think we should get involved because although we can complain to the workers at the university and the higher-ups, there's only so much they can do,” Palma said. “As a group of people that come together, you can make so much more change.”
Sophomore Alex Saffelle’s friend was in the student union when Harris revealed a firearm in the Alpine Bagel Cafe. Saffelle said that his friend was affected by witnessing the interaction, but was able to leave when the incident occurred. Until the UNC shooting and lockdowns, Saffelle said he did not consider the possibility of gun violence on Elon’s — or any university — campus.
“I just had the assumption that just happened to high schools, middle schools or even elementary schools,” Saffelle said. “As horrible as those all are, for some reason it didn’t even connect that this is something that can happen just as easily on a college campus.”
Though difficult to comprehend, Saffelle also said that the incidents have prompted him to think more about his safety and the safety of those he cares about.
“It’s tough because it happened close by, but it doesn’t feel real. I think it would be hard for it to feel real unless it happened here and that is not something I wanna feel,” Saffelle said. “It’s a little scary that can happen anywhere, anytime.”
Freshman Omar Castañeda expressed similar sentiments to Saffele, saying that the lockdowns still feel distant from Elon.
“Part of me is like, well it hasn’t happened here, so I’m good. But the fact of the matter is that it could happen at any point in time,” Castañeda said. “Growing up in New York, I would always hear like ‘There’s a shooting in Texas’ — nowhere near me — but now that it is happening 40 minutes away, it hasn’t really affected my routines or activities, but it definitely is a little in my head more.”
If a shooting were to occur at Elon, Castañeda said that he would feel unsure of what to do.
“If that were to happen here, I have no idea what I would do,” Castañeda said. “If I were in my dorm and it was happening on the other side of campus, sure, but if it were anywhere near me, I would have no idea where to go or what to do.”
Castañeda also said he’s concerned about the rise in shootings nationwide. Though he hasn’t heard much about UNC’s lockdown on Sept. 13, Castañeda said that incidents of gun violence are treated more like gossip than serious news.
“People are talking more about Aaron Rodgers tearing his achilles than they are about a shooting 40 minutes away,” Castañeda said. “There's more pressing matters in the world than our fantasy teams getting low points.”