Michigan State University student Sami Norcutt, 19, had been taught how to respond in an active shooting situation.
But when it actually happened at her campus Monday night, it all felt surreal.
"My entire life I’ve been told what to do in this situation, but now that it’s happening, I don’t know what to do,” Norcutt said. "This isn’t supposed to happen to me. I see this on the news, this wasn’t supposed to happen at my school."
Three students were killed on campus and five others were wounded Monday when a gunman opened fire at an academic building and the MSU student union before fleeing and leading police on a manhunt that ended when he fatally shot himself.
Norcutt was studying with friends in her dorm room when she got a text about an active shooter on campus.
“We got texts like this before, so we didn’t know how concerned we should be,” Norcutt said.
She didn’t understand how serious the situation was until a friend of hers, who left the student union minutes before shots were fired there, arrived at her dorm room.
“Then we realized, there’s someone on campus who is trying to hurt us,” Norcutt said. That’s when the group of students turned off their lights and moved something in front of the room’s door to barricade themselves.
Even after they heard that the gunman had been found dead, Norcutt and three friends stayed together in the dorm overnight for comfort. They kept the door blocked.
“This is one of the most traumatic experiences of my life,” she said. “I live at MSU, and I shouldn’t be scared to walk out of my front door, but from now on I will be.”
Ryan Kunkler, 22, was in the university's engineering building for a course on smart sensors when he received an email around 8:30 p.m. advising him to "run, hide, fight."
"That was scary," Kunkler said. "Another student in the room actually told us they were hearing it was an active shooter. Then we heard shots had been fired at Anthony Hall, which was right next door."
Kunkler and the others stopped what they were doing, turned off the lights, closed the curtains, locked the door and got on the floor. He texted his family to tell them he was safe.
"We stayed quiet as if there was an active shooter right outside our door," Kunkler said. "It was terrifying, just the ambiguity of not knowing what was going on was the toughest part."
Kunkler and the group stayed in that room for hours, leaving once they got the all-clear around 12:30 a.m.
When Drew Goretzka, 22, heard that there may be an active shooter on campus, he did what not many others did.
Goretzka, the managing editor at the student-run State News, drove from his off-campus home to the newsroom, right across from Berkey Hall where at least two students were killed.
"I can speak for the editorial team when I say our concern was getting as much credible information out as possible," Goretzka said.
MSU students lay flowers at memorial for shooting victimsFeb. 15, 202300:30
While the student journalists were working, a student escaped from Berkey Hall through a broken window and walked to a business in the same building as the newsroom. The journalists took him in and used a first aid kit to care for his foot, which he injured from a fall.
Goretzka and his colleagues left campus around 3:30 a.m.
"We’re all pretty tired, pretty stressed. We’re still students and I think we’re all still digesting what happened and kind of realizing what happened on our campus," he said.
"There's a sense of mourning" on campus, Goretzka said about the loss of sophomore Brian Fraser and juniors Alexandria Verner and Arielle Anderson.
"We have friends who are friends of" the victims, he said.
In an email sent to students Tuesday afternoon, Interim President Teresa Woodruff called Monday "a day of shock and horror."
"We are devastated by the loss of life and injuries inflicted. Our hearts are with the victims and their families," Woodruff wrote.
Woodruff announced that classes at the university, both in-person and online, will be canceled for the rest of the week.
"As we begin the healing process, we know it will not be swift. We must take time to think, mourn and be together," she wrote. " We are heartbroken, but I am certain of this: Our community will not be broken. As we always have done, we will draw strength from one another and stand together even through our shared shock and grief."
The university is providing mental health resources to students, faculty and staff.