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The GH Falcon

“This is something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives”: UNC-Chapel Hill faces deadly shooting

The Carolina community unites to heal and advocate for stricter safety measures in wake of recent shooting.
Kaitlin McKeown via News & Observer
First-year students Lucas Moore and Katie Fiore comfort one another following Monday’s tragic shooting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

As first-year student Daneen Khan adjusted to her life as a college student during her second week of school, an unexpected jolt of shock interrupted her normal routine as the sound of sirens reverberated throughout campus.

On Aug. 28, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) issued a shelter in place order in response to an active shooter reported in the Caudill Labs building. The shooting resulted in one fatality: Dr. Zijie Yan, an associate professor in the department of Applied Physical Sciences.

Chapel Hill residents were alerted through UNC’s emergency notification system, Alert Carolina, at 1:03 p.m. regarding an “armed and dangerous” individual on campus.  All students and university faculty were instructed to seek indoor shelter immediately and to stay away from windows. 

Law enforcement responds swiftly to emerging reports, promptly evacuating students to safety. (GH Falcon Staff)

The ordeal sent students and university faculty into a frenzy, prompting them to barricade themselves in dorm rooms, dining halls and classrooms for approximately three hours. Khan, seeking shelter in her dorm room, touched on her experience throughout the day.

“I texted my parents as soon as I had closed the doors, curtains, lights, and situated myself on the floor under my bed,” she said. “I was even able to call them as the reports of the shooter’s location came in.”

Former Green Hope student and UNC freshman Lucas Moore took shelter in the Lenoir Dining Hall as the situation unfolded. In an interview with the GH Falcon, he also went in-depth regarding his experience throughout the shooting.

“I was eating lunch when the dining staff suddenly began ushering us away from the windows. At first I thought it might be due to a thunderstorm or tornado, but I was shocked to see the active shooter alert on my phone,” he said. “The dining staff worked to barricade the entryways.”

Out of fear for their safety, most students returned home for the next two days. However, some students like Moore stayed back to provide a support system for those who were unable to return home.

“I wanted to truly sit with what had happened and not avoid the problem. A couple friends and I sat in the Pit for several hours and asked people who passed how they were doing and what they were thinking. Many were still in shock from the tragedy, and it was difficult to know what to do or how to feel in the hours following,” he said. “Campus was eerily quiet Monday evening.”

In light of recent events, security measures throughout campus have raised concerns amongst the Carolina community. As students, staff and parents grappled with the aftermath of the incident, discussions concerning campus safety and higher security protocols garnered national attention.

Local news outlets on scene to report live updates during lockdown. (GH Falcon Staff)

“We know that gun violence is on the rise not only in our state but across the country. We know that death by gunfire has surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of injury death to children,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

On Monday, Governor Cooper released a statement at 2:49 p.m. in response to the shooting. “This is a tragic way to start a new semester and the state will provide any assistance necessary to support the UNC community.” He went on to confirm that all resources will be allocated towards students and staff as well as UNC law enforcement.

Though the state has pledged resources and support for the school, many students struggle in the aftermath to confront their understanding of the incident.

“Back in high school, I had some semblance of a mental plan of what I would do if a situation like this were to ever occur. In my first two weeks at UNC, the possibility hadn’t even occurred to me,” Moore said. “As we sheltered in the dining hall, the news was our primary source of information. It was disconcerting that our primary source of updates was an external one. It was incredibly frightening to simultaneously experience such an event and see it covered on the news.”

It was incredibly frightening to simultaneously experience such an event and see it covered on the news.

— Lucas Moore, UNC student

Khan added, “I love how integrated Chapel Hill is with the community, but this incident made me realize anyone could walk right into a classroom or lecture hall. I think we need to up our security. The fact [that] some classrooms weren’t even locked is so scary.”

In the aftermath of the shooting, students and faculty unite in a collective effort to support one another and spark meaningful change.

“Moving forward begins with taking time to process the situation at a personal level,” Moore said. “The Carolina community has shown an extraordinary level of compassion, checking in on and supporting one another in the days following the incident. However, healing does not mean this tragic event should be forgotten—ideally, it is a catalyst for change.

Amidst the situation on campus, the UNC Health System promptly activated lockdown protocols following the initial active shooter reports. Similarly, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School district went into “secure mode,” restricting anyone from entering and exiting a school building.

The UNC Police Department issued an “all-clear” statement at 4:14 p.m. Classes and events have been canceled on Aug. 29 and Aug. 30. 

I was in one of the safest places on campus, yet my heart didn’t stop racing until I was at home in my room. That fear is something I’ll never forget.

— Daneen Khan, UNC student

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Zeba Hussaini, Editor-in-Chief

Zeba Hussaini is a senior at Green Hope High School returning for her third year on the staff. Her main responsibilities include creating content, overseeing publication and site maintenance. Zeba is a nationally recognized writer best known for her timely coverage on local news. Beyond her academic and journalistic pursuits, Zeba is a member of Speech & Debate, American Cancer Society and Key Club, and serves as President of Quill & Scroll National Honor Society and National Psychology Honor Society. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, spending time with family, trying new recipes and occasionally binge-watching reality TV. With this being her final year on the staff, Zeba looks forward to leveraging her skills and experience to leave a lasting impact on the student body and broader community!

Lucas Moore, Editor-in-Chief
Lucas is Editor-in-Chief at The GH Falcon, and a senior at Green Hope. This is his third year on the staff of The Falcon, and his main responsibilities include building this website, editing articles, curating content, and spearheading Green Hope's new video news program! Outside of school, Lucas enjoys rock climbing, coding, photography, and hanging out with friends. He can also solve a Rubik's Cube in under 30 seconds!
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    Peggy ChenSep 2, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    Amazing article, Zeba! Really well written coverage of such a heartbreaking incident.