The University of Michigan Diag was illuminated by a string of tealight candles Thursday evening as community members gathered to mourn and commemorate the four lives lost in the Oxford High School shooting on Tuesday, where a 15-year-old sophomore opened fire in what would become the deadliest K-12 school shooting since 2018.
Three students spoke at the event: Public Policy junior Alyssa Donovan, LSA junior Mckenzie Miller and LSA junior Josh Winslow. Donovan and Miller are graduates of Oxford High School.
Prior to the speeches, organizers and other supporters walked around and lit small handheld candles for attendees to hold. The speakers stood on the steps in front of the Hatcher Graduate Library and attendees gathered around to listen to them through a megaphone.
During her speech, Donovan expressed her and other organizers’ support for the members of the Oxford community.
“The reasons for our gathering, our shared experiences of trauma and loss to gun violence, are devastating,” Donovan said. “We are here today to relay our support for the community of Oxford, for my community and the community of so many here gathered today.”
Donovan continued, telling the Oxford community that the U-M community stands with them in their time of grief.
“We’re here to show the community of Oxford that the University of Michigan, the state and the country share our pain, our sorrow, our devastation and our loss,” Donovan said. “We’re here to support us through it. We are here to offer our thoughts and our prayers. We’re here to reach out to others being brought together in our shared grief.”
Miller pointed out the tight-knit nature of Oxford and explained the shock she felt when she learned that her hometown was the location of the attack.
“Oxford’s a small town,” Miller said. “It’s the kind of place where you go to Meijer with your friends on a Saturday night. McDonald’s before every football game. It’s a place where people grow up and they come back to raise families. Oxford’s been changed forever.”
In an interview with The Daily, Miller said she initially found out about the shooting from a friend. Miller said she then received a text message from her sister, who is a sophomore at Oxford High School, telling Miller that she loved her.
“I actually got a text from her … to me and my other sister, and it just said ‘I love you guys,’” Miller said. “I was, at that point, trying to figure out what was going on and I was panicked. ‘What do you mean? What’s going on?’ And then she just said ‘There’s a shooter in the school. I love you guys so much.’ And then I didn’t hear from her for another 30 minutes.”
During her speech, Miller went into more detail about how she’s been feeling all week following the shooting.
“I can’t explain what it feels like to receive those ‘I love you’ texts. What it was like to see your small hometown high school trending on Twitter,” Miller said. “I don’t know how to explain how any of this feels, and I truly hope no one else will ever have to understand. I’m not okay, but it breaks my heart to know that what I’m feeling is only a small fraction of all the students and staff that were in that school.”
Miller said that, right now, her focus is on mourning the lives lost and respecting those affected.
“I know that many of us, myself included, are feeling a range of emotions these past few days,” Miller said. “Anger, confusion, resentment, denial, just sadness. And there will be time for all of those emotions to run their course and make these necessary talks and actions. But right now, it is time to grieve. Feel pain and sadness for all those affected. To give support and prayers for Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, Justin Shilling and Tate Myre. Four students, four kids, who will always be remembered.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily prior to the vigil, Winslow said he was concerned when he saw that the shooting occurred in Oxford because he has family who lives there. Winslow said this prompted him to quickly draft a statement and speak at the vigil when he learned about it Thursday morning.
During his speech, Winslow focused on the victims and their families.
“Four teenagers lost their lives on Tuesday,” Winslow said. “That’s four families who won’t have their teenagers home for the holidays, four families that won’t attend their graduations, four families that won’t celebrate milestones together and four families that will be burying their children far too young.”
Winslow continued, imploring listeners to come together and support each other and the Oxford community.
“I ask that you all keep the families of those who were lost, as well as all of those in the Oxford community, in your thoughts tonight,” Winslow said. “In moments like these, it’s more important than ever to show up for one another, to show that we care about one another, and to support one another.”
In an interview with The Daily after the vigil, Donovan echoed Winslow, saying people’s focus should be on the victims and supporting their families.
“I really commend our community in Oxford,” Donovan said. “Regardless of our differences, regardless of anything that we have been through, we always come together and show our love and support for one another.”
Once the speeches were finished, organizers invited the attendees to join them in a moment of silence. The vigil concluded with the community placing their candles on the steps of Hatcher and paying their respects to the victims.
Daily Staff Reporter Christian Juliano can be reached at email@example.com.