Monday, April 13, 2009

Shooting at HFCC - my perspective

I think it will be therapeutic for me to write about my experience as well as informative to those who want to know the events as they really took place.
On Good Friday, April 10, 2009 around 12:30pm I was sitting in the Music Technology Lab at Henry Ford Community College (HFCC). I was thinking how nice it would be to leave at 1pm and get back home to where my family was visiting from Indiana. I had just printed off some sheet music of a piano solo from Final Fantasy VIII when I became aware of some noise and commotion outside of my door. There are often annoyances from immature students in the room next door so I paid it no mind. Then, I heard what sounded like a door being slammed (open or shut), and I stood up to walk over and tell these "punks" to stop messing around. Then I heard a sound that would freak anybody out - it was a girl frantically calling for help. "Help, please help me!" I raised my voice and said with as much authority as I could, "Hey, what's going on here?" as I rounded the corner from the lab door to the doorway of the classroom next door. This next part is a little blurry...
I saw a large black man straddling a petite black woman who was lying on her back on the floor. I don't know what I did exactly but I approached close enough to touch the man before I felt a strong prompting to leave the room quickly. I rushed out and around the corner of the hallway yelling for someone to "Call 911! Call security! A girl is getting raped!" I met another employee of the college and we went over to the Fine Arts building secretary because she was already on the phone to 911. This fellow employee and I then went back to the room where the assault/rape was taking place. He got a little bit closer to the room this time and clearly saw the man loading a full length shot gut, which then got fired into the floor. We ran back down the hallway and made more phone calls to both 911 and campus safety letting them know the guy had a gun and had fired it. Sometime during this there were at least two more shots fired that I can remember. I then went around to a different doorway to try and watch from a distance what was taking place, but by this time the door to the room where the assault and shots were happening was shut. While watching, an Arab couple with there young child (5 - 7 years old I think) came out of the hallway leading to the band room oblivious to what was happening. I yanked open the doors from where I was watching the scene and yelled to them to come to me now! Had they gone the other way they would have been walking toward the room. As it was they were only about 8 feet away from it. Meanwhile, the other college employee as well as two of his friends were going around the building, keeping people away from this dangerous area, and one of them even ran over to talk to campus safety directly who still had not showed up on the scene. At about 12:45 (or 15 minutes after everything started) an entire S.W.A.T. team showed up in the building and began barking orders at us. I showed them exactly which room/door to go to and tried to tell them that there was a class taking place in the choir room (but they didn't really listen to me). I later found out that the choir room class had already exited out one of the back doors because their teacher knew what was going on. One more shot was fired before we were evacuated from the building and sent over to a classroom in the Liberal Arts building. All of us who were witnesses in anyway had to write our personal accounts of what took place. There were only three of us who had seen anything at all; myself, the other employee, and one student. The rest of the people only heard the shots, or were in the building somewhere at the time of the occurence. I already talked about what I and the other employee had seen, but the student had actually seen the guy carrying the girl (who was passed out at the time) into the classroom. She was in the class that was being held in the choir room and told her teacher what she saw. From what I understand the teacher went over and talked to the guy who told him to "go get help." I know this teacher called 911 or security but other than that I don't know what happened or what this teacher actually saw. Obviously he did NOT notice a full length shot gun in the room or think anything like a murder was about to take place.
I was interviewed in detail by a police officer who had me draw a map of the crime scene, and walk him through everything I could remember. I don't know how long everything went on but I didn't get home until 4:30pm or so that afternoon.
I later learned that the girl who was killed was a theatre student named Asia and that the guy was a classmate of hers. Earlier that day I was writing a song while working in the lab and it had a simple yet beautiful melody to it. There was also a part of the song where the volume swells, and the melody turns a little tragic sounding. I cannot associate this song with anything but the events of that day and so I have decided to dedicate it to Asia, even though I did not know her. I am calling the song Asia in memory of her, and in honor of life and how precious it is.
Some would say it is ironic that she was killed on Good Friday, part of the Easter holiday which for Christians is all about victory over death. Did death win this time? Is life really so fragile that nothing can restore it again? I believe otherwise. I believe Asia was taken home to that God who gave her life, and that one day her loved ones that are still living will be able to see her again. I have encountered death in many different ways; the loss of my father-in-law to Lou Gehrig's Disease, the loss of my grandmother to old age, the loss of new life when my sister's baby was stillborn, the loss of what might have been when my own wife had multiple miscarriages before we were blessed with Arianna, but never has death been so unexpected, so riveting, so insane, so brutal as at this time. People tell me I did the right thing, that I most definitely should have followed that prompting to leave the room as quickly as I did. That doesn't stop me from thinking about the "what if's" and the "what else's". What if I had used my martial arts training and kneed the guy in the head? Would Asia still be alive? What else could I have done to prevent this from happening? I now realize that I and the other college employee were the last two people to see them both alive...

Asia, I'm sorry that I couldn't do anything to save your life. I'm sorry for your family and friends that this happened.

I have made a recording of the song I wrote and dedicated to Asia. It can be found on this blog under my music. Please share it and this post with anyone who you think may benefit from this more detailed account of what went on this day.