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A Nomad's Notes: My view on the Hill during the Bowling Green Massacre

It’s still vivid in my mind despite it being nearly six years later. Memories like that just sear in your mind, no matter how hard you try to forget.

But as a former Western Kentucky University student who resided in Bowling Green, Ky., for nearly five years from fall 2009 to spring 2014, it’s time to for me to finally talk about what happened in May 2011 on the Hill.

It was as normal a morning for a college student living in a dorm on campus as it could be. My roommate in Rodes Harlin Hall, God bless her, had awakened to the unforgiving light of the sun as it penetrated our east-facing windows before 8 a.m. I purchased bandanas to shelter my eyes from the unforgiving sight, and that morning was no different. 

Except it was. As I awoke, so did my realization that I carried in me an anxiousness, an uneasiness, as if those around me would have a sense of peace and calm that day I myself would not be able to obtain. I felt chaotic. I thought of the Egyptian word for chaos, isfet, and in that moment, whatever afterlife there was, I decided to pray for my own safety to make it there, no matter what happened. There was no guarantee I would, but my silent prayer was one of the only comforts I could give myself at that moment.

Finishing my prayer, I ripped the headband from my head and threw it across the room. It smacked against the window, almost like it was striking back against the sun for disrupting my peace. I sat upright and gathered my bearings, feeling my heart flutter in a way it typically only did when I forced myself to exercise (which was inevitable when your campus is located on top of a giant hill). I felt that heaviness in my head that almost always accompanies a poor night of sleep. I let myself fantasize about a nap later on, but knew that was most likely folly. And I was right.

I showered quickly, cringing every time the doors to the communal bathroom slammed. I was the only one who afforded the other girls the courtesy of a scare by stopping the door just before it closed and gently closing it the rest of the way. The sounds of it that morning did nothing to ease my anxiety. Even my body wash guaranteed to “calm nerves” did nothing to soothe me.

I went back to my room and dressed quickly before locking the door and leaving the dorm and making my way downhill to one of my classes. I entered the campus building and took the stairs gingerly to my destination, as I let the soothing music of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden fill my head. I hoped their screams would drown out those in my head. I walked into the classroom and took my place in my “assigned” seat with my fellow students I had gotten to know for so many months. I still think about them periodically, and the kinship and bond so many of us have from that shared experience.

And that’s when he entered.

Any chatter in the room immediately died as he addressed all of us. The anxiety I had experienced that morning manifested 20-fold, and I gripped the desk as he continued to talk and began to walk around the room to each of us, each student’s eyes never leaving his. The tension was palpable, as if it could tangibly burst.

And then it happened.

I don’t remember how long it took; in moments like that, a minute can feel like an hour, and an hour can feel like a second. Time is coagulated, stretched, pushed together, pulled apart, squished. Time was meaningless. I remember periodically making eye contact with my fellow students, wondering how long it would take, praying it would be over sooner rather than later, and hoping we would all make it out of there OK. But I knew I was kidding myself.

And then, just like that, it was over.

He spoke again, briefly, and then left the classroom without another word, and those of us who remained began to console one another as best we could.

“Are you OK?”

“How do you think you did?”

“That was so hard.”

“None of that was on the study guide.”

“I totally failed. My scholarship is toast.”

That day in May 2011 is one that will never be forgotten: the day 20 students in a classroom at WKU in Bowling Green saw the massacre of their class grade thanks to the hardest final exam they would see in their college careers.

But we survived together.

So thank you, Kellyanne Conway, for bringing to light what I have tried to keep in the dark for so long. The world deserves to know what happened that day — the day of the Bowling Green Massacre.

I can only imagine the horrors of what happened in Atlanta and Sweden.

Never remember.

Lindsay Kriz is a staff writerfor the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email lkriz@brunswickbeacon.com.