The morning of April 30 was Charlotte’s last day of class. I began my day with a plan: first, to have breakfast with my family, then to meet a Charlotte Athletics media relations individual about a story I had been working on. It was a very good conversation, one that I left feeling as though I was growing in my profession and that others could see this. From there, I went to a class to review for a final exam. We didn’t spend long in the class, so I spent time filling out one last course evaluation for that professor. A friend took me home to my apartment so I could eat one last time before studying for an exam at 4 p.m. From there, I would head straight to work at BB&T Ballpark with the Charlotte Knights. I left the exam and got to work on time at 5:30 p.m.
We went through our routine of going through our schedule for the game. I had my Apple Watch on and started seeing a lot of messages come through. I couldn’t look at them then. A few minutes later, I checked my messages and saw that my fellow Niner Times staff members and friends were saying that there was a shooting on campus. And then I get the Niner Alert that countless others received telling us to: “Run. Hide. Fight.”
I realized it was for real. This wasn’t just a situation where we see a fire truck and hear sirens on campus and all converse about what might be going on. It was happening. A shooting was happening on my college campus, a place I consider home. And I was at work, nowhere near campus.
I started getting messages and calls from all kinds of people. My parents were both at my brother’s high school baseball game in Stanly County, also nowhere near. I didn’t have time until late to think about how on Tuesdays at that time my dad or I could have been in a parking lot waiting to pick up my mom from Reese — just a few buildings away from where the tragedy began. Or how my mom often has meetings in the Kennedy Building. Or how my dad and my younger brother could have been sitting in the stands at Hayes Stadium waiting for the baseball game to get started. I knew none of this was a possibility at the moment, so I didn’t have to think about it too much just yet.
I went through a few spurts of being missing in action and then back to work until I got asked if one of my writers and friends, Drew Pescaro, had been shot. My heart dropped. I couldn’t control whether I walked or ran or hit the ground or cried or anything at this point. I remember looking down at my hands and seeing how blotchy they had gotten, because it is something that happens when I am nervous or upset. I started getting more and more messages as I ran to clock out and leave work. I almost ran right into one of my boss’s bosses. At some point, I passed my own wonderful boss — she offered to get me an Uber or help me find a ride.
I was a mess, but I was focused on getting to the hospital as fast and safely as I could. I texted someone who knew what hospital to go to as I ran to my car with my backpack full and heavy. I called my mom to be sure about which hospital it was and put it in my GPS. I was almost to the hospital and was trying to figure out where to park as I started to turn onto a street when my car started breaking down. I was stuck at the corner of an intersection, perfectly visible and safe, unsure if I could move. I called a friend who I knew was at the Knights game to come help me get to the hospital — that was all that I was worried about. He came to help me find my way to where I needed to be at the hospital.
All of the moments between getting the first few messages and getting to the hospital are a blur. I know what happened, but when I try to tell people what happened, it’s hard to get everything in the right order. I spent a few hours at the hospital with members of Alpha Tau Omega, Drew’s fraternity, along with several others, including a fellow editor and very dear friend Kathleen Cook, Dean of Students Christine Davis and Head Football Coach Will Healy. Kathleen and I waited until we were certain that Drew was out of surgery. We planned to come back to visit on Wednesday, May 1.
The morning after, I went to the hospital with my mom to figure out if what we’d be able to do about my car and ended up having it towed.
I took photos and videos at the vigil held in and outside of Halton Arena. After the vigil, I went with a close friend to get a smoothie. My parents picked us up from there to get us both home. Then, less than 45 minutes after people began leaving the vigil, a shooting occurred at the University Village Apartments where many students — and quite a few of my friends — live. My friends were all safe. But many were not.
I met some other editors at the apartments to cover the story. The three of us were there for somewhere between two and three hours to take photos and talk to whoever we could without being too intrusive. Numb isn’t the proper word to use. I had not cried much since leaving the hospital because I was incredibly busy. There were moments, but I hadn’t even seen most of my friends. It was heartbreaking to realize how many people still hadn’t heard back from me because I’d not yet been able to respond to them. What was more heartbreaking was that I know many others were in this same position — and that three young people were tragically never able to respond again.
And somewhere in the midst of all that’s been happening, I realized that I was helping to document a tragic part of Charlotte’s history. This time it is not in reference to a basketball player having a 30-point game or a football player reaching 1,000 yards. It’s not a pleasant history. It’s horrific to now understand what it feels like when it happens to you.
I am so grateful that I have so many amazing people in my life.