"The generosity and the amount of love and compassion that [everyone] showed in jumping in to support this really helped make this possible."
Trigger Warning: The following article mentions gun violence which some readers may find distressing.
Moms stepped up to support the thousands of Michigan State University students who returned to campus on February 20 for the start of classes there after a deadly shooting. Many of the students had not returned to campus since a week before, when a shooter entered the East Lansing campus and killed three students and wounded five others, Good Morning America reported.
The mothers stood with signs offering free hugs for the students. "When they saw the parents with 'free hugs' signs, that’s when students would typically burst into tears, in a good way, because I think they were just so overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude," Heather Sertic of Traverse City, Michigan, said.
Sertic, a 1999 Michigan State University alumna herself, shared that on the evening of February 13, while talking on the phone with her daughter, a sophomore there, they both began receiving texts and alerts about a shooter on campus. Sertic expressed that it had been a "very frightening experience" for everyone, even though her daughter was unharmed.
Just three days before the start of classes, she posted a message on a Facebook group for Michigan State parents from all over the nation. 'What if we got together and set up a table and a tent and we had some snacks, whatever we can come up with, and we're just there to show the students we support them and we care for them? We can give them hugs if they want hugs,' she wrote to them.
In a matter of hours, according to Sertic, parents in Michigan and across the nation mobilized, offering to lend a hand in person and contacting businesses to request contributions. The group had gathered over $30,000 by Monday morning in monetary contributions and product donations. "There is absolutely no way that this could have been what it was without all of the other parent volunteers and all the businesses that jumped in," Sertic said. "The generosity and the amount of love and compassion that [everyone] showed in jumping in to support this really helped make this possible."
Along with the parents of Michigan State students, the gathering also included their grandparents, siblings, and former faculty members. "It not only helped the students, but I can genuinely tell you that it helped the parents too," Sertic said, adding that she's getting text messages, phone calls and thank you cards from students' family members. "I think it’s starting some of the healing process for us all."
Berkey Hall and the MSU Union building, the sites of the shootings, will stay closed for the remainder of the academic year and 300 classes will be relocated to other parts of campus. The hugs and gifts students got on Monday, according to Sertic, won't ease their sorrow over the deaths of the three of their classmates, nor will they make things "go back to normal." But she expressed her hope that the parents' efforts helped the kids understand that they have a "army of people" behind them. She added, "That's what it turned into, taking the damage that one person did and turning it into [something] positive from so many people."
Cover Image Source: YouTube | MLive