Jackie Ruiz, a master’s student at UNC-Chapel Hill, was walking on the main campus quad when she received the first Alert Carolina message on Monday afternoon.
“Emergency: Police report an Armed and Dangerous Person On or Near Campus,” Alert Carolina said at 1:03 p.m. in the first of a series of messages.
Ruiz ran into a nearby classroom building and sheltered in a closet with other students, she said.
“To be honest, I’m feeling pretty terrified right now, but I feel safe in the location I’m in and am thankfully with friends,” Ruiz said while sheltering.
She said the situation “feels like a waiting game,” but that she hears “more and more police sirens” from her location.
Shortly after 4 p.m., the campus lockdown was lifted. Students began spilling out of buildings and, having spent three hours in lockdown, were noticeably jumpy.
Locked in a UNC bathroom
Luke Toscano, 18, accompanied his roommate Jayden Johnson to campus when they received a text from the school saying there was an armed shooter. Toscano, his roommate and five other students huddled together and locked themselves in a bathroom.
”We’ve been quiet in here and are a little more relaxed now,” Toscano said. “I haven’t received any training for this kind of circumstance.”
Toscano said later in the afternoon that he was out of the bathroom and with a larger group of students.
‘We know we are safe now’
Katherine Snow Smith, a freelance writer and graduate student at UNC, said Monday afternoon she had been with about 25 students in a dark closet for three hours.
Smith said her phone died but she was able to use her laptop.
“We all raced here after a loud alarm went off,” she wrote, referring to the audible campus alert. “It was really hard to hear what it was saying. People thought it might be a tornado then someone said a shooter and people started running everywhere.”
Smith and others across campus waited to hear an “all clear” from campus before emerging.
“We know we are safe now but it was awful at first,” she said.
‘Confusing’ and ‘stressful’
Alex Bredar, a post-doctoral scientist, said she was coming downstairs in a classroom building when she heard, “Don’t go that way! There’s a shooter in there.”
She hid in a chemistry lab for about 30 minutes with roughly six other people until officers evacuated her.
”It was hard to tell if they were announcing themselves as officers or if they were the shooter,” Bredar said. “It was confusing.”
Neha Dewett spent three hours locked in a lab at UNC Hospitals, where she works. She was just getting out at 4:45 p.m.
”It was stressful and annoying,” she said. “Even knowing the shooter wasn’t in the lab, you don’t know where he is. We’re still a little bit stressed. Our brain is not working.”
A door barricaded with bookcases
Senior Anna Connors dropped her lunch and dashed into a nearby building when she saw people on campus start running.
Because the building has many large windows, she piled with about 20 other students into an interior-facing lecture hall. Together, the students barricaded the door with nearby bookcases, and Connors wedged herself under a table to hide.
“At first, a lot of people were crying, calling loved ones, but now it’s quiet and everyone is just waiting to see what happens next,” said Connors, a former News & Observer intern.
“I think the hardest part is everyone hears different things and media spreads so fast these days, you just don’t know if what you’re hearing is true,” Connors said. “So you have to be patient and trust that UNC will let us know when things are OK.”
Staff writer Korie Dean contributed to this report.