Howard University graduate student Lourds Michelle Fernando remembered growing up in Shri Lanka, a place that suffered a prolonged civil war. Her childhood memories flooded back Tuesday when she heard of an alleged active shooter on campus.
Fernando, 32, was on campus in the biology building under lockdown during the shooting scare, but said she now has no specific concerns based on the information she has received from other students and faculty.
“I’ve lived in a war ridden country,” Fernando said. A bomb could go off anytime in Colombo, the capital city where she lived. “And now there’s shooting everywhere in the U.S.,” she said. “The feeling is similar.”
Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick issued a video statement later in the day. In it he said, “there was no active shooting reported, there were no sounds of gun shots and no one had actually seen someone carrying a gun.” The campus was declared “all clear” around 2 p.m.
Deborah Ohiomoba, a 1992 Howard graduate remembered her first reaction of “what the hell,” when she received a text about the alleged active shooter. Although she was in San Francisco at the time of the incident, she received multiple texts from friends as the situation unfolded.
The campus was on lockdown and on heightened alert midday Tuesday – the same week of the 150th homecoming celebration, when police received reports of an armed shooter on campus. Ultimately D.C. police and the University issued statements that no shooter was found.
Rhonda Shivers – a fellow ’92 graduate – sat with Ohiomoba upstairs at the Howard bookstore early evening Thursday. The two former roommates and still best friends beamed with excitement as they reminisced on what it meant coming back for homecoming as Bison; however, their joy immediately gave way to concern.
“What the hell is going on up here? What are they doing to keep the students safe up here?”
said Ohiomoba referring to her initial thoughts. Though she didn’t have many official details on what really happened, she was concerned for the parents and for the students, which prompted her burst of emotion during the incident. Although she believed the situation was handled correctly, she wanted more information to be released.
Shivers, seated in a plush armchair, considered the possibility of increased security on campus, but eventually said, “increasing security at an HBCU with people who aren’t accustomed to what goes on at the University,“ could cause issues. Thankfully, it may not be necessary since a shooter was not confirmed by police.”
Ohiomoba and Shivers will be joined by two other alums this weekend, and have plans to go to the “Howard Homecoming 2017” party at Tony and Joe’s, Saturday’s football game against Morgan State University and attend Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel service on Sunday to celebrate their 25th graduation anniversary.
Junior film student Ajani Thomas still wants to know more about what really happened Tuesday. “Let us know exactly what went down. Give us the results of the investigation,” Thomas said.
Despite his frustration, Thomas is determined to have a good time for the celebration. “Homecoming’s dope; it’s basically a time for me to forget about midterms and be out of my mind for the majority of the weekend,” Thomas said as he smiled from ear to ear. His homecoming plans have not been altered due to Tuesday’s incident.
Alumna and Washington resident Zaneta Hargrove said she was, “very excited about homecoming and reuniting with classmates,” and has plans to attend President Wayne A.I. Frederick’s soiree on Friday and Saturday’s football game, but added that people have to stay vigilant and be mindful of what’s going on.
“I have faith in the University to make sure that we’re secure,” said Hargrove, but acknowledged the need for more awareness due to an increased racial climate. “People are acting out on their hatred in a violent way, and it is becoming a norm,” she said.
Ohiomoba had similar thoughts and gave worry to someone using Homecoming as an opportunity to make a misguided statement to hurt people. “I am very sad at the potential for it to happen,” especially at Howard she said.
“Homecoming is coming home to family and friends and love. It’s love. It’s nothing but love,” said Ohiomoba. Not a time for worry and fear.