Marco Díaz-Muñoz, 64, an assistant professor at Michigan State University is haunted by the deaths of two students inside his classroom on February 13. He says he is opening up about the encounter with hopes of impressing upon voters and lawmakers the toll of an epidemic of gun violence.
“If they saw what I saw,” Díaz-Muñoz said of the MSU shooting, which killed three students and left five others critically injured, “these senators, they would be so sick, they would be shamed into changing laws.”
His words steady, he said he remains traumatized and in shock, and spends most of his time wishing he could forget Monday. “There’s a side of me that just wants to go under the covers, and remove from the world, and not answer to anyone,” he said.
Díaz-Muñoz was leading one of his favorite courses, an Integrative Arts and Humanities course called Cuba: The Forging of a Unique Cultural Identity.
His wife had accompanied him to class that day because they had trouble with one of their cars. She had been sitting on a bench down the hallway, reading, and waiting for her husband to finish class. When she heard gunshots, she slid under the bench and called 9-1-1. She was instructed to leave the building.
Just after 8 p.m. on Monday, from his position lecturing at the front of Room 114 in Berkey Hall, Díaz-Muñoz heard two or three loud “explosions” outside the room. Within seconds, Díaz-Muñoz saw a figure appear in the doorway at the far end of the classroom.
Masked and wearing head-to-toe clothing, the man entered the room looking robotic and not saying a word. Díaz-Muñoz could see something shiny in his hand, and the professor guessed the gun was about a foot in length. The shots came quickly, maybe 15 of them, and the shooter fired indiscriminately.
Some students dove under chairs, hit the floor, or moved toward the lectern. Díaz-Muñoz and some others stood frozen.
Within minutes, Alexandria Verner and Arielle Diamond Anderson lay in a pool of blood with five or six other students injured. The gunman then wordlessly slipped out of the room.
Díaz-Muñoz lunged toward a door at the front of the room, afraid the gunman would continue down the hall and enter a second time. Without a way to lock the door from the inside, Díaz-Muñoz crouched holding the doorknob with all of his weight, and shouted to his students to get out through the windows.
Lower windows would not open wide enough to get through, so eight to 10 students climbed to higher windows and jumped.
Others stayed behind and began attending to their classmates, applying pressure to wounds. All around him students were crying out for help, yelling that they didn’t want to die. One said he couldn’t breathe.
Díaz-Muñoz recalled two badly-injured students lying silent, closer to the back of the class.
Neither stirred or spoke, but their mouths and hands were moving, he said, perhaps silently praying or asking for help. He attempted to move Verner into a more visible spot for paramedics, but stopped when he feared doing so could worsen her injuries.
He implored paramedics to attend to the two girls first. “Somebody said something about a pulse, and that they’re gone,” he recalled. That’s when police escorted the professor and students out of the building.
After meeting with counselors, police, and FBI officials, Díaz-Muñoz was able to return home around 3 a.m.
Since the shooting, Díaz-Muñoz says sleep doesn’t come easy, and is haunted by images when he is awake. He says he has a hard time accepting it, and it seems not real.
He believes it may be necessary to ramp up security with more locked doors, and more selective access to buildings.
But heightened campus security doesn’t address the root problem, he said: “The real change (needed are) the laws concerning access to guns and the laws concerning funding for mental illness.”
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