When gunfire erupted Monday at the MSU Union, Evan DeRicco and Sam Gardner were among the herd of students who scrambled to safety, leaving their backpacks and other belongings behind. 

Days later, after having time to process their shock and retrieve their personal effects, the two students appeared to occupy different emotional places. For DeRicco, a senior studying music education, the campus vigil Wednesday made the trauma of the rampage “feel way more real.”   

“Up until that point it had kind of only felt like a dream to me. But seeing how it impacted other people has really hit me the hardest,” he said.

. . .

Gardner, a junior studying political science and Mandarin, went to a friend’s dorm from the shooting, then headed to The Villa, a house operated by Grace + Truth Ministry. He said his faith and conversations with friends helped him process what happened Monday night. 

“I’ve been OK,” he said. “There have been a few times where I felt a little off.”   

Though mass shootings account for just a tiny percentage of the country's gun deaths, experts say they can be uniquely disturbing because they happen without warning, often in places that should seem safe: schools, concerts, or office buildings.

Sandra Graham-Bermann, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan whose research includes traumatic stress reactions in children exposed to violence, said the psychological impact of the MSU shootings will likely be most challenging for students like those at the Union or Berkey Hall on Monday, who were close to or struck by the gunfire. 

“The people who are most likely to be traumatized are those people who were injured or were in the line of people thinking they were next or are covered in the blood of their friends.”

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