11:30 p.m., Havighurst Hall
Two girls were huddled beside an MUPD officer across from a room in Havighurst. The girls, clutching water bottles and dressed to go out, tried to peer inside the room and ask the officer questions that he couldn’t answer about their friend — the one inside waiting for an ambulance.
She was curled up in bed, engulfed in blankets with her head in another friend’s lap. The friend rubbed her back and held a trash can below her mouth. Soft, yellow string lights illuminated the five other girls and two MUPD officers crowding the room, and a “Don’t worry bee happy” sign hung over them.
“I just joined a sorority,” the girl wailed. “I don’t wanna get in trouble.”
“Honey,” said a girl leaning on her desk, dressed in a crisp pink sweater and jeans. “You’re not gonna get in any trouble.”
Everyone watched anxiously as the girl waiting for the ambulance continued to throw up and, when she could, moan about how mad her mom was going to be.
When the ambulance arrived, the officers asked if she thought she could walk downstairs. She couldn’t. Her friends helped her out of bed and the officers each supported her with one arm.
“Is she gonna be coming back tonight?” her roommate asked.
The officers didn’t think so.
The girl apologized for the inconvenience, but everyone told her not to worry.
“You’re not the first one tonight,” an officer said. “And you won’t be the last one, that’s for sure.”
11:58 p.m., North Quad
They came from Brick Street. Their drinks came from boys.
They’d really thought their friend was okay, until they reached North Quad — that’s when she’d begun struggling to walk on her own. Then she couldn’t hold her own head up.
The officers advised the girls to help their friend into the backseat of the nearest cop car. They managed to get her seated, legs stretched out onto the icy pavement. She slumped against the seat, and both he and a friend had to support her neck as he gave her a Breathalyzer test.
“Whoo,” he said at the results. He alluded that she was close to the “magic number,” .2, the level at which people can lose the ability to walk and communicate before losing consciousness altogether.
One officer called for an ambulance.
The rest asked her gaggle of friends, whose only defense against the 10-degree weather was crop tops and cropped jeans, how they could stand the cold.
“Worry,” her roommate said, cracking a humorless smile. “Warms you up.”
Their RA came bounding outside, a big black parka swallowing her tiny frame. Half of her blonde hair had come loose from its ponytail on the journey from Brandon Hall. She wrapped her arms around the roommate and another girl and asked if she could ride in the ambulance.
The officers said yes. They waited.
1:03 a.m., Armstrong Student Center
These girls hadn’t called the MUPD, and they weren’t planning on it. But they were lucky MUPD drove by and saw them outside Armstrong, they were told, because their friend was critically intoxicated.
The friend sat on the frozen curb, head sagging down between her knees.
The officer pulled over and asked if she was okay.
“We’re fine, officer,” one of the seven people clustered around her said, waving him off. “We’re totally fine. Thank you.”
“How much did you have to drink tonight?” the officer asked.
“19? Probably 19,” the girl slurred.
“She did not have 19 drinks,” one of her friends said. “She’s fine.”
She wasn’t. When the officer stepped out of the car to help her stand up, she vomited — clear, plentiful and as the officer pointed out, almost entirely alcohol.
He called for an ambulance.
He asked the remaining three other girls where she’d been and how much they’d really had to drink, but they didn’t know. One had seen her struggling at New Bar and recognized her from her pledge class; sisterly obligation spurred her to help the girl home. They’d met the other two on Slant Walk.
All three girls helped her into the warmth of the cop car’s backseat while they waited.
“Will you call my roommate? Will you text her?” she asked. “My mom is gonna be so mad.”
Dazed, she paused and squinted out at the street. The car’s pulsating red-and-blue lights illuminated the sheen of sweat coating her face.
“I don’t know where I am,” she said, panicked.
The officer told her she was waiting for an ambulance and would be okay.
“There’s about to be so many people in the hospital,” her sorority sister said.
1:24 a.m., McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital
“It’s too early for this,” said an MUPD officer outside McCullough-Hyde. “They’ve got beds stacked up.”
He mentioned the possibility of diverting incoming patients to nearby hospitals.
The girl we found outside Armstrong had already arrived. Two girls who’d helped her waited in the lobby, laughing at something on one of their phones. They’d met on the walk home.
At 1:29 a.m., the MUPD was on its way to Dennison Hall. An RA had called about an intoxicated resident.