On Monday, a lone gunman entered the campus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and killed a faculty member. For several hours on Monday afternoon, the university campus went into lockdown, with students advised to get indoors, close their doors and windows, and simply wait for further instruction. For hours these students had to sit, wait, and wonder what was going to happen with a live shooter on campus. Their families at home had to wait as well. The UNC student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, has given people a horrifying glimpse at what that looked like for everyone involved by sharing students’ texts on its front page.
Caitlyn Yaede, the print managing editor of The Daily Tar Heel, took to Twitter on Tuesday to share the student newspaper’s recent front page in the wake of the UNC-Chapel Hill shooting that left Zijie Yan, an associate professor in the department of Applied Physical Sciences, dead and a former student in police custody. “The front page of tomorrow's @dailytarheel,” Yaede wrote on Twitter. “I shed many tears while typing up these heart-wrenching text messages sent and received by UNC students yesterday. Our campus was on lockdown for more than three hours. Beyond proud of this cover and the team behind it.”
The texts, some of which were in red and some in black, offered a sobering perspective on what students and their loved ones were experiencing as they waited to find out what was happening with the lone shooter. “Are you safe? Where are you? Are you alone?” some texts read.
“Come on sweetheart - I need to hear from you. Can you hear any gunshots? Please stay safe.” More responses read, with the final texts sharing the perspective of loved ones who were also waiting to find out how their family was doing. “Are you safe? Please send literally anything. I heard someone got shot. Can you call me? Are you okay? IDK what to do. I wish I could come get you. Don’t stop texting me.”
Reactions to the cover on social media demonstrate that it appears to have achieved its desired effect.
“Absolutely heartbreaking and frustrating that it had to be made,” offered @jcbringle on Twitter.
“I will never undestand how anyone in a position of power can see and hear anguish like this and refuse to do anything about it,” agreed @paigemasten.
The front page of The Daily Tar Heel was shared all over Twitter, with many social media users noting that no one should have to live with that kind of fear. “We don’t have to live like this,” tweeted @JoyceWhiteVance. “It’s madness.”
March For Our Lives shared the front page of The Daily Tar Heel with the reminder that “this is not normal.”
This is not normal. At least it shouldn’t be. And this student newspaper shouldn’t have to be the ones to remind us.