The entire town was locked down, but Stallings says she trusted her daughter’s middle school principal, who is a member of her congregation, to do everything possible to protect the students there. And she left her husband, who was out of town, a message on his cell phone letting him know she was safe.
But Stallings found herself thinking back to the beginning of the academic year, when two police officers had been shot to death near campus: “It was just such a bizarre bookend to the entire academic year, that early shooting, and then 4/16.”
Glenn Tyndall was alone at the Wesley Foundation Monday morning because his wife, LaVina, who serves as his administrative assistant, was in northern Virginia to help their son and daughter-in-law move.
Shortly after 9 a.m., he received an e-mail asking about a reported shooting on campus.
“This was two hours after the original shooting,” says Tyndall, “and I had not heard anything. No alarm had been put out because they thought [the first shooting] was self-contained. By the time they realized that was not so, the second shooting was happening.”
Sometime before 9:45 a.m., Tyndall received the first e-mailed warning from campus. “We were notified to close and lock doors and pull shades down. The university was just about to go to an [emergency alert] system where they could text message every person with a cell phone, but it was not ready yet.” (That system is in effect now.)
One by one, the four students who live at the Wesley Foundation made their way back safely from campus. Other students followed, seeking refuge.
“One girl was having an asthma attack because it was in the 40s with snow flurries, and she had been forced out of a building and had run all the way,” says Tyndall. “So we provided shelter for probably 15-20 students, and then as our regular students began to find out what was going on, they made their way to the Wesley Foundation because they felt secure there. They weren’t real sure about [their safety] on campus.
“We did not know that the shooter in Norris was the same as the one in Ambler Johnston,” says Tyndall. “Probably 30 to 40 students hung out all day and we watched TV and saw the awful news. At 12:30 p.m., we heard that they thought 22 people were dead. And, of course, it ended up being 10 more, plus the shooter himself.”
As students kept vigil by the TV, Tyndall tried to keep up with calls and e-mail.
“I would answer one e-mail and find 20 more, and all the phones were ringing,” says Tyndall. The calls and e-mail came from colleagues, pastors from around the annual conference, and many concerned alumni.