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From Oxford High to MSU, students cope with horror of repeated school shootings

One Michigan State student attended school near Sandy Hook during the horrific 2012 mass shooting. Others survived the Oxford High School massacre just 14½ months ago.
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Multiple Michigan State students, and their parents, relived the horror of a school shooting Monday, having lived through massacres in Newtown, Connecticut, and Oxford Township, Michigan.

Three students were killed and five others were wounded Monday night at MSU's campus in East Lansing, where students and others sheltered in place for hours after the first shots.

Matthew Riddle's daughter, Emma Grace Riddle, a freshman history major, survived a shooting at Oxford High School in southeastern Michigan on Nov. 30, 2021. Riddle recalled his chats with Emma in the days immediately after that shooting, 14½ months ago.

"'Lightning doesn't strike twice, right? This has happened to you and it can't happen again, right? To Oxford, to you or anybody else,' and frankly that's not true," Riddle said.

Gunman Kills Three And Wounds Five At Michigan State University
Crime scene tape surrounds the Student Union building on the campus of Michigan State University on Feb. 14, 2023 in East Lansing, Mich.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Emma called Riddle, a 45-year-old engineer, from the band room at Oxford High when the gunfire broke out there, and then from her dorm in East Lansing on Monday night.

Riddle drove his daughter back to Oxford early Tuesday. Emma plans to return to Michigan State on Sunday night.

Riddle said his daughter is, unfortunately, equipped to deal with the reopening of school after a mass shooting.

“It sucks to even say this, but she knows what’s coming over the next few days and how to deal with her trauma and what’s going to happen with vigils and the folks who are experiencing it for the first time,” Riddle said.

Andrea Ferguson, whose daughter is also an Oxford H.S. alum and current MSU student, told NBC affiliate WDIV of Detroit that she “never expected in my lifetime to have to experience two school shootings.”

“It was like reliving Oxford all over again,” she said. “The phone call, the word shooting, shooter, it was surreal.”

The Oakland County Sheriff Department — which responded to both shootings — took note of the horrific repeat of violence and said in a Facebook post: “We also know that this will be a terrible flashback for our Oxford community, especially those students that graduated from Oxford high school and now attend MSU.”

Jennifer Mancini told the Detroit Free Press that her daughter, a former Oxford High School student and now a freshman at Michigan State, was across the street from the student union when gunfire erupted Monday night.

Mourners grieve at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich.
Mourners grieve at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., in 2021 following a mass shooting. Paul Sancya / AP file

The terrified student called her mother.

“She said, ‘Mom, I hear gunshots … What’s going on?’ “Mancini told the newspaper.

The daughter, who transferred from Oxford before the 2021 shooting, told her mother she wants to come home.

“I can’t believe this is happening again,” said Mancini. “She said that she had PTSD. She said she can’t believe this is happening again.”

Then-Oxford student Ethan Crumbley gunned down four schoolmates at the campus about 45 miles north of downtown Detroit.

Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shootings, pleaded guilty to all charges against him in October

The Oxford shooting drew national attention, not just for the killings, but also for the prosecution of the shooter's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, who are accused of ignoring warning signs that might have led to the deadly rampage.

They’ve been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, and have pleaded not guilty.

There was also a student who attended a school adjacent to Sandy Hook Elementary School during the Newtown, Connecticut massacre and now is a senior at MSU.

As soon as Jackie Matthews learned there was an active shooter, she started texting friends to make sure they were safe. Matthews was 11 years old and a student at Reed Intermediate School, which neighbors Sandy Hook, when the mass shooting occurred there in 2012. She still remembers being on lockdown at Reed.

Now 21, Matthews said those memories came flooding back as MSU was put on lockdown Monday night. 

“Something so traumatic is devastating no matter what age you are,” said Matthews, whose TikTok video recounting her experience with the MSU and the Sandy Hook shootings went viral on Tuesday.

“No one thinks it’s going to happen to them until it does. This is becoming way too familiar for too many people,” she said. “I just hope we can change things so no one has to experience this — let alone once. I mean, twice is something no one should have to [experience].”

MSU’s Berkey Hall, where the bodies of two of the three shooting victims were found, is a five-minute walk, just two crosswalks away, from Matthews’ home. She said that, earlier in the night, her roommate had been studying when she grew uneasy. Later in the evening, they heard the news.

“When we found out there was an active shooter across the street, we immediately locked our door. After that we started contacting everyone we knew,” Matthews said. “I’m just trying to be a part of the support that I received when I was at Sandy Hook for anyone at Michigan State.”