At 5:40 p.m. on April 30, the UNC Charlotte community was thrown into chaos. An armed assailant fired into the classroom of Dr. Adam Johnson’s LBST 2213, located in the Kennedy building. Six students were shot. Two, Ellis Parlier and Riley Howell, were killed. Drew Pescaro, Sean DeHart, Rami Al-Ramadhan and Emily Houpt were injured. As of May 1, those four students are expected to recover. The suspect was taken into custody by CMPD and UNC Charlotte Police.
A vigil was held on May 1 in Halton Arena to provide a space for students to mourn and express their support for the victims. Kristine Slade and Makala Carrington were co-coordinators of the vigil. Senior Class Council, Senior Executive Leadership Program and the Student Organization Resource Center (SORC) were also involved. A number of businesses and organizations donated candles, water, snacks and tissues.
Members of the UNC Charlotte music department played orchestra music as students filled the arena. By the time of the vigil, the arena was completely filled, to the point where there were no longer any seats for attendees. Many stood along the sidelines. Every time the students stood, it sounded like thunder.
The vigil opened with an emotional speech from Kristine Slade. “The event that occured in our campus yesterday was nothing less than a horrific tragedy, however I have strength in knowing that as a community we will preserve and we will get through this event. Individually, we all cope and process with what happened yesterday differently. However, as a collective, we are Niner Nation and we are Charlotte Strong,” she said.
Chancellor Phil Dubois then took to the stage. He was tearful and his voice was audibly shaken. He emphasized his love and support for the campus community, as well as thanked visitors in attendance. These included Mayor Vi Lyles, retired Chancellor Woodward, Governor Roy Cooper and Congresswoman Alma Adams. Dubois added, “As parents ourselves, Lisa and I grieve for the senseless loss of young life and share in the anguish of their parents, their families and you, their friends. We can’t bring them back. But with your help, we will find a way to remember their presence as 49ers. These next days, weeks and months, will test our collective strength and as I said yesterday, we have no course but to hold up each other, to work through this together.”
Photos by Leysha Caraballo, Chris Crews and Nikolai Mather.
Incoming Student Body President Chandler Crean also addressed the campus community; Vice President Adela Mann stood by his side. In view of the cameras, Crean had been visibly emotional throughout the vigil. He expressed his sincere condolences and support to the injured students and thanked CMPD and UNC Charlotte Police Department for their work. He also stated, “Students, faculty, friends and family, please know that this does not stop here. It can not stop here. We have to stay strong together, uplift each other, love one another and unite as one Niner Nation. What happened yesterday cannot happen again.”
Other features of the vigil included a prayer, led by Makala Carrington, and music by the UNC Charlotte’s Women’s Choir. The Choir performed “Rain Come Down,” a song originally written after the shooting at Columbine High School. “Come, rain, come down, come, rain, come down, Heaven’s tears of mercy, come a-runnin’ down. Say no words, it is too soon, say no words out loud,” the lyrics state.
After a moment of silence, students then filed out of Halton Arena to gather and light candles in West and Star Quad. Jewish and Christian faith organizations were available for students; services by The Center for Counseling and Psychological Services were also accessible. Music echoed across the campus. Speeches and students chanting of “Forty Niners!” filled the air. Candles and signs were placed at the foot of the Norm statue by Halton Arena.
In the words of “Rain Come Down” and the UNC Charlotte Women’s Choir, “Come wash away this grief and pain, and let all hearts be clean.”
Correction: In an earlier version of this article, Rami Al-Ramadhan’s name was incorrectly spelled as Rami Alramadhan. The Niner Times regrets this error.