May 9th Email Archive: Aftermath

From: Boyatzis, Richard
Sent: Saturday, May 10th, 2003 8:27 AM
Subject: A Terrible Ordeal

Friends and Colleagues,

We, at Weatherhead, have just gone through a terrible ordeal- and this is only the first stage. We often feel anguish for people dodging bullets in far off places and afraid to look outside of their doors. In the US, as in many countries, this danger seldom comes this close to us. The horror of violence and the frightening condition of being victims of a deranged person has struck.

People who were in the building when the shooting started, around 4 PM yesterday, were all evacuated by about eleven. By about 11:30 PM, the shooter was apprehended and in custody. To the best of our knowledge, as of 1 AM last night, there were two direct injuries. One first year MBA student was shot, and sadly, died. Argun Saatchioglou was shot in the rear but was taken to a hospital and is, from all reports, doing OK. Many, many others are suffering the trauma of having been standing in dark closets or cramped under desks for 6 or 7 hours- uncertain as to what was to come next. News broadcasts may clarify if there were any other injuries.

To review what we understood from discussions with the Dean, Provost, Associate Provost, and head of CWRU Security knew as of 1 AM last night: At about 4 PM, a former MBA student known to many on campus as a dangerous and threatening person who had filed many law suits against the school for unfair treatment he felt he received, used a sledge hammer to enter the Peter B Lewis building from the Law School side. Cookie was on the first floor when he entered and saw him. She said he looked odd. He was wearing an old WWII helmet and military clothes, carrying one or two automatic or semiautomatic firearms. Three MBAs were talking outside of the Cafe, where Keisha was just closing up. When he opened fire, one MBA was shot. The others dropped for cover. Keisha ran out, as did one of the other students. Mimi dove underneath her desk (she was at the front). She said she could hear him walking around and periodically firing.

A group of us were up on the fourth floor. Once the shots were fired, Bonnie and Roz called security and police immediately. Melvin, Coop and I looked (carefully) outside of our space to see if we could see anything downstairs. Coop and I went down the stairs to see if we could help. Coop checked on the second floor and then went back upstairs to be with our folks. I went to the first floor. I saw the student who had been shot lying in the hall in front of the cafe. After I tried to call for medical help from PDPAO to no avail, I went back into the hall and saw police moving outside the side door. I went to the door to see if someone could help get the wounded student out of the building, the police were behind their cars shouting for everyone to get back. They had tried to get the student out from the other side and the gunman had shot at them. Coop, Bonnie, Melvin, Roz, Mike Kraft and Eileen Connell first went to my office, then to Coop's and then into Pat's office. That's where they stayed until the SWAT/FBI retrieved them many hours later. Scott Taylor had gone around the hall to find Ashley. Then they hid in an office. As many people did all over the building.

The internet exchange and cell phones helped many stay in contact. The police established a command post by the Ford Garage. That is where several of us convened- Marian Hogue, Lynn Singer, Julia Grant, Michael Devlin, Mohsen, and Jim Wagner. They were in constant contact with Ed Hundert and others. A collecting place for families had been set up at Strosacker. It was then decided to use the Kent Smith Library as the meeting place for all people taken out of the building. Police debriefed all people from the building in Mather Memorial first, where groups of us from the University as well as the Red Cross were talking to anyone who had been taken out of the building.

Anyone needing to talk, please call. Glenn Nichols is organizing the University's activities to help students, families, staff, and faculty. I assured him and Mohsen that many of us from our department will be eager to help facilitating discussion groups, talking to people, and using our sensitivity as well as expertise to begin the healing process.

It is in moments like these that we can reflect on what is truly important in our lives- each other, our family and loved ones. These events are deeply disturbing and frightening to all of us- to those directly and indirectly affected. Please help others who are more distraught than you and we will begin rebuilding our lives as safe and sane.

Richard

From: Singh, Ajai

Monday, May 12, 2003

Dear Friends:

Please accept our sincere thanks for all your good wishes and prayers. They helped us through our ordeal. I am especially grateful that my daughter was unharmed. While I got through the whole episode in my office on the fourth floor of the Peter B. Lewis (PBL) building, my daughter Ankita, had a much more harrowing experience. The gunman entered the room where she was hiding under a desk, fired a shot at random and left. I have recounted our experience below.

Friday’s events had a surreal quality. Around 4 p.m., I heard loud bangs and they sounded like gunshots. I thought to myself that it was very unlikely that these were actual weapons being fired in PBL, in our building. I continued to work but within a couple of minutes there was a message from Retta in the Dean’s office asking us to stay put in our offices and alerting us to the presence of a gunman in the building. Retta’s message informed us that police were surrounding the building.

It was a gorgeous spring afternoon and the view from my window looked so normal with some students playing volleyball in the fraternity across Wolstein Hall. However, the presence of police squad cars and officers with guns drawn kneeling around them made it clear that things were far from normal. The bursts of automatic gunfire inside PBL were quite terrifying. It felt strange and unreal to see the concerned and the curious gathering behind the police cordons- and to realize that we were the objects of their concern.

This is how Ankita’s harrowing experience unfolded. She was working in the computer lab that afternoon and had been there for over two hours. They all heard the gunfire on the ground floor. Eric and Sean were peering around the corner to see what was going on and spotted the gunman coming down towards the basement computer lab. They shouted out a warning for all. There was a huge rush as everyone ran to other locations in the basement. Ankita fell in the melee. She realized that there was not enough time for her to get out of the lab. She was the only one left in the lab and she hid, as best she could, under a computer desk at the back of the room. While she was cowering there, she heard the gunman enter the room. He came in but did not spot her. He fired a shot at random towards the door and left the lab. When she heard the gunfire become a little distant she grabbed the phone in the lab and hid behind a filing cabinet. She called security and then called home.

Anju got home from work and heard the phone ringing. It was Ankita calling from the basement of PBL. Ankita had already left a phone message in which she sounded quite terrified. Fortunately, Anju spoke with her first before listening to the messages. Anju called 911 immediately. A very special person named Tracey got in touch from the 911-support line. Anju told her that she was not a hysterical mother and that both her husband and her daughter were trapped in the building. But her mother’s instincts were that her daughter was in a more perilous situation and needed to be secured first. Tracey called Ankita and was her lifeline for nearly four and a half hours. She kept the line open so that the phone would not ring and give away Ankita’s hiding spot. Tracey kept in touch with Anju and kept updating her about Ankita’s welfare. Anju kept her composure throughout and both mother and daughter were very brave. We owe Tracey a lot for helping Ankita through this crisis.

My own stay was uneventful. A bit scary because I was the only one in my part of the building. Tim Fogarty was in the other corner in his office. We kept e-mailing each other. I had disconnected my phones. I figured that if the phone rang and I picked it up, it would be a sure giveaway that someone was in my office. I kept responding to my e-mail. For those who know my tardiness at e-mail response might find that amusing!! I did reconnect the phone but felt very insecure answering phone calls. At least outwardly, that was the only manifestation of fear. I had a hammer in my office that I had brought in to hang a picture. I would hold it and stand beside the door every time I thought there was a sound in the hallway outside my office door. Not much of a defense against a high-powered automatic rifle but it was reassuring. I wanted to have one good whack at the guy before he got me. Fortunately for me, my resolve and my ability with the hammer were not put to test!! Also, fortunately, I did not know that Ankita was trapped in the basement for quite a while and I did not know that she had been in danger. It would have made my stay quite agonizing. I do not know how I would have responded.

The police SWAT teams came between 10.30-11.00 p.m. to rescue me. I was tired and hungry and happy to get out of my office. The SWAT teams had rescued Ankita just a little earlier. They complimented her on her hiding spot! Ankita said that are some advantages in being tiny!

My friends, Allan Zebedee at San Diego State University and Anurag Gupta and Ash here in Cleveland, stayed in constant touch with me through e-mail. Allan and Cynthia, in San Diego, were scouring the web to give me the latest information and Allan stayed online throughout. Anurag and Ash stayed with Anju and Akshai (my wife and son) and kept me informed on how things were going at home and the information they had from Ankita. Allan and Anurag were my connection to the saner world outside. I owe them. Many friends and students called or e-mailed while I was in my office. I was not too brave while answering the phone calls lest I be overheard! Many of our friends called, including Anju’s wonderful colleagues from Hillside, and so many of you came to be with Anju and Akshai and were a huge support through this whole ordeal. To All our friends and all who have been concerned for us: Thank you all for your thoughts. You are the most wonderful set of family and friends that we could hope for. Anju and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for thinking of us and for being there for us. You mean the world to us.

Norman Wallace, the student who was killed by this crazy lunatic was my student. He was a bright, warm young person with an easy smile. I had written a letter of recommendation for him. It is such a tragedy that we have lost him. My heart goes out to his family. As I rejoiced in the safety of my child, I kept thinking about what Norman’s family and friends must be going through. Our thoughts and our prayers are with his family.