By Michael Stemmler, Guest Columnist

I thought it was just going to be two hours of watching Netflix at Panera. Yet, as my sister and I pulled into the parking garage, we realized this was not going to be an ordinary, relaxed day. Her phone buzzed and two words stuck out from the text: “Active Shooter.” She looked at me and quickly reassured me that the scene was a few blocks away so we “should” be safe.

We hustled to the Panera, where we ordered our breakfast and picked out a spot where I had a good view of the entrance.

“Watch everyone who comes through that door. If you need to, hide in the bathroom,” she said as she gathered her stuff to go to her mandatory lecture (they were taking attendance or else we would have been out of there). 

I sat there and waited, listening to the nervous chatter of workers and especially to the girl who was sitting at a table across from me. She was starting to panic. Curled up into a ball on her seat, she quickly picked up her phone and called someone, seeking comfort through the other voice on the line. As they asked for details she kept explaining that she didn’t know anything, and only that the text message sent out said there was an active shooter.

“Run, hide, fight? Like, what does that even mean?” she frantically asked. It seems like she didn’t pay attention during orientation.

Those three words were actually the last-minute directions the OSU police department gave their students. First you try to run, if you can’t run then you hide and lastly, if you can’t hide, you fight. They are the three steps everyone should take in the case of an active shooter situation. She didn’t know those words or their meaning, making her panic even more.

I didn’t hear the rest of her conversation, as my sister and her friend came back into Panera. They both posted up at my table and her friend busted out her laptop, trying to find out the latest information.

Their conversation was terrifying. From what they heard there were multiple shooters scattered across Watts Hall and Lane Avenue Parking Garage. All the news coverage focused on the S.W.A.T. team called in, but the main story told from student to student was that a car ran into a crowd after a fire alarm went off and two men, one with a gun and the other with a machete, jumped out and started their attack.

Luckily, in the aftermath, we know this was not the case, but at the time, it was deafening news. We quickly hurried to my sister’s car, and as she paid her parking ticket, I looked out the window at workers casually hanging up holiday lights, completely unaware of what was going on.

We hit the road. As she was driving us back to Miami, I replied to the multitude of her text messages pouring in from friends and family who all wanted to make sure she was okay.

We kept the radio on, listening for the latest updates, but the shock still hung in the air. Although it is the most used phrase at times like this, it exemplified the entire situation: “You never expect it to happen until it happens to you.”

While I was far from harm’s way, it still was a shock because I realized it could just as easily happen here at Miami. We [in the Class of 2020]all watched active shooter training videos before coming to campus, but those are meant for when it is too late and the act is already in process.

But we can stop this from ever happening before it comes to that. The real way to prevent this from ever happening here is the acceptance of others. Often these incidents are caused by individuals who feel like they are outcasts in their community.

No matter our difference, each and every one of us needs to challenge our own inner prejudices and take the necessary steps to let others know they are welcomed in this Miami community. Especially in wake of last week’s alt-right fliers and the anti-LGBTQ/Islamophobic demonstration across from the Armstrong Student Center earlier this year, we now have to come together as a diverse community more than ever.

Instead of just laughing off the fliers and joking around with the demonstrators, it’s our duty to reach out to those who were affected by the cruel ideas held by a few individuals.

Even if you don’t think it’s your place to say something, it is the majority neglecting the ideals of this cruel minority which can truly resonate with those targeted individuals. As a result, we can truly exemplify the ideals of “Love and Honor” across our entire campus.