COLUMBUS, OH. - What started as a quiet morning on the campus of Ohio State University soon turned into chaos.
Andrew Landis, an Army veteran studying engineering, was standing outside when a driver steered directly into the crowd.
“I grabbed as many students as I could that were next to me, try to pull them back behind something so they wouldn’t get hit, but a few other students that were there, and faculty that were there, got hit by this vehicle, including myself,” he said.
Landis, who previously studied at Mizzou, said he was struck in the leg. At first, he thought the driver was having a medical emergency. Then, he saw something even more troubling.
“I saw the driver reaching over and rifling through a bag, or a backpack or something, and grab something. And came out the driver’s side and started slashing around with what looked like a huge knife,” Landis said.
Police identified the driver as 20-year old Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a student at the university. After driving the vehicle into the crowd, he allegedly began attacking people with a knife. Authorities then shot and killed the suspect. Several people were taken to the hospital with injuries.
Across campus, Shawn Semmler was having coffee with a friend when his phone started buzzing.
“I looked down at my phone and saw a “Buckeye Alert,” he said, explaining the campus-wide alert system used by Ohio State officials.
Semmler, who great up in Edwardsville, Illinois, followed several other students and faculty below ground and behind locked doors. He joined hundreds of other students quietly watching for updates online and on their phones, while also updating their parents.
Once the threat was over, Semmler said everything started to sink in.
“You look outside and there’s the five helicopters above you. And the SWAT team over here. There’s police and all their tape over here. Then it starts to feel real,” he said. “It’s so easy to be desensitized by something you see on your screen, even if it is images on your own campus, it’s easy to feel like that’s not connected to you.”
Semmler credits the university for keeping students informed of the ongoing situation.
“This huge campus that we live on, we all communicate on, they were well informed throughout the whole process. And that was pretty remarkable,” he said.
Members of the Ohio State Alumni Club of St. Louis followed updates about the incident throughout the day. Chapter President Steve Bolland said 41 students from the bi-state area started their freshman year at Ohio State this fall, and about 1500 alumni live in the St. Louis area. They often gather to watch football games together.
Bolland said events like Monday’s attack “make you stop and think” about what can happen, and should remind students to always stay aware of their surroundings and alert authorities of anything strange. He said the club was saddened by what happened on the campus of a university he cares about deeply.
Although it is common practice for universities to prepare for a threat on campus, students said they never expected violence to strike so close to home.
“I would never expect this to happen at Ohio State. We pride ourselves on having a strong, and inclusive community that’s very diverse,” Landis said. “All of the classmates that have been talking today, and all the classmates I have currently in the hospital… pouring out of love and support.”
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