One of the impromptu memorials the day of the candlelight vigil.

To the greater UNC Charlotte community,

It is strange to think that one year ago a letter from the editor was being written by the former editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Kopp. We at the Niner Times were scrambling to put our thoughts together to document the worst day in UNC Charlotte’s history. Campus was empty. Candles and flowers were at the Norm Statue and in front of the Kennedy building. We as a community were all feeling intense shock, disbelief, grief, anger and sadness. We were mourning Riley and Reed. We were worried about the four injured students. We were just trying to get through the horrific day. 

On April 30, 2019, when a former student opened fire on a classroom in Kennedy, UNC Charlotte was changed forever. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that for many, the comfort of campus was gone. The place so many called home suddenly felt like a graveyard. It felt like a place you were not supposed to feel happiness or joy. Every “last day of class” felt tainted. Even group presentations made some feel wary. 

I know that life was changed especially for the people who were in that room. The survivors that witnessed such a terrible act, the students who lost their lives and their loved ones who will never get to see them again. April 30 will never be the same. Riley Howell and Reed Parlier did not return to their families or to campus. Sean DeHart, Rami Al-Ramadhan, Emily Houpt and Drew Pescaro had to begin to recover, physically and emotionally, from the unthinkable. I simply can’t imagine how hard the past year has been for the people who were in Kennedy 236 and their loved ones.

And now, we are facing the first anniversary of this day in the midst of a pandemic. We are not able to mourn as we did a year ago: hugging and crying with our peers and loved ones. We must observe this anniversary on our own. Niners are spread across the state, country and world. Will this make the anniversary harder to grieve? Absolutely. Does this mean that we won’t recover and show a similar resiliency to last year? Absolutely not. If there’s one thing we learned on April 30, 2019 and the days to follow, it’s that Niner Nation is the strongest and unites when it matters most. We are and have always been Charlotte Strong. 

Although we are unable to gather on campus and recognize the anniversary of this tragedy, we are able to reflect together. We can show love and compassion to one another. We can think about and pray for Reed and Riley’s families. We can hope and pray for the four injured survivors’ healing. We can pay tribute with our words and thoughts. We can ensure that this day and its survivors are never forgotten. 

We at the Niner Times have put this e-edition together to hopefully provide some support, reflection, healing, or closure to whoever may need it. We know nothing will be enough to take away the pain and hurt. We know an article or photo cannot heal your wounds or erase the chilling memories. We know that April 30 will always be a devastating day for all of us. However, we hope to provide a sense of community that may feel a little lost right now, at the time when we need it most. We hope to tell the stories of a strong and resilient campus community. We hope to honor the survivors. We hope to remind our community that we are a collective and brave family. We hope to remind our community that while the past year has been incredibly difficult, we have made it through. And we will continue to make it through, because we are Charlotte Strong. 

Please be kind to yourselves and each other.

Best wishes,

Madison Dobrzenski, Editor-in-Chief of the Niner Times

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