AUSTIN (KXAN) — “I called my husband who was picking our 11-year-old daughter up, and I said, ‘There is an active shooter situation on campus, and I can’t get a hold of Connor,'” Michelle Wynne recalled.
Connor, a 2020 grad from Lake Travis High School, now attends Michigan State University, where a gunman killed three students and injured five more Monday evening before taking his own life.
“I pulled up… Michigan State campus maps. We could kind of see where everything was, how it was unfolding and where the shooter was,” Chat Wynne, Connor’s dad, said. “It was really a tough go.”
They finally found out Connor was out of town with his girlfriend. A relief for his parents, but something his little sister couldn’t shake.
“We tried to let her know that Connor was safe, but until she heard his voice, she did not believe it. She was just really struggling,” Michelle said. “She’s got a very special bond with her oldest brother, Connor, and she was like, ‘I need to hear his voice. I need to hear his voice.'”
Connor said he found out about what was happening back on campus via text.
“I got one text came through that was a text from the Michigan State alert system that was basically saying that shots had been fired on campus and that we needed to run, hide, fight,” he said.
It turns out, many of his friends were impacted — locked down or even in the path of the shooter.
He said one of his friends was even supposed to be in one of the classrooms where shots were fired.
“He just didn’t go to class that day. Thank God, he didn’t. It’s, in my mind, a miracle that he’s still with us. And I thankfully got to hug him this morning and see that he was still here with us,” Connor said.
Even though he wasn’t on campus at the time, Connor said the shooting has changed him and many others there.
“The places that you go every day where you’re supposed to feel safe, you don’t feel safe anymore,” he said.
A feeling that resonates here at home with some students at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Who wants to be afraid to… go to school and get an education? It’s not something that we should be afraid of. But it is,” said UT sophomore Ryleigh Hintz.
In 2020, UT announced $8 million toward safety improvements, including adding 13 more officers and creating a HALO camera system in West Campus.
Those changes have been made, according to its website.
After a stabbing spree on campus in 2017, UT told KXAN all building managers would receive training for CPR, AED and hemorrhage control. KXAN is still waiting to hear back if that has happened.
The Wynnes praised MSU’s communication system throughout the tragedy, saying they received frequent text updates.
Connor hopes the event pushes colleges across the country to take even more safety measures, like more lighting around schools and security around doors.
“Look at ways that we can mitigate this so that this doesn’t happen ever again, because no one deserves to have this happen to them,” he said.
He also wants other students out there to take measures.
“Take every single threat seriously because you don’t know whether or not it can affect you,” said.
Chat also wants more mental health resources.
“I know that we’ve got a mental health crisis in our country. And I think there needs to be more of a focus is what I would like to see,” he said.
The family of the Michigan State gunman said he was dealing with mental illness.
“It felt like every single person on campus had a connection to this horrific event. And that’s just something that kind of like kills me inside,” Connor said.
The trauma can cut deep, he said, even a day later and more than a thousand miles away.
“I kind of broke down a little when I heard that they were safe and not out fighting for their lives there,” Michelle said, holding back tears.