Hope in the Wake of a Tragedy: MSU Professor, an Albion Alum, Recounts Tragic Shooting

After the shooting at Michigan State, Albion students painted the rock in support of the victims. MSU professor Marco Diaz Munoz, an Albion alumnus whose class was entered by the shooter, remembers the rock from his days at Albion as the college’s only way to protest (Photo courtesy of Eric Westmoreland).

At 8:18 pm on Feb. 13, a gunman entered room 114 in Berkey Hall at Michigan State University while Classical Studies Professor Marco Diaz-Munoz, an Albion alum from the class of ‘86, was teaching a class about Cuban culture. 

“This person entering the classroom and shooting at my students for about three minutes before he left was the most horrendous experience I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Munoz said. 

Munoz said his first thoughts were that the shooting wasn’t really happening. As an educator, he views his students like family; he said there are no words to explain the horror he felt that night. 

During Munoz’s time at Albion College in the 80s, he said, “an act of violence like this was unthinkable.” Munoz never imagined there would be a shooting at Albion, and is immensely grateful that he didn’t need to worry.

“It’s so sad that this generation of students have to live with that fear,” Munoz said. “I didn’t grow up with that fear.” 

After the tragedy, MSU canceled classes for the rest of the week. The university even extended Munoz an offer not to teach for the rest of the semester, but he didn’t accept. 

“Something in me needed to be in the classroom, not that classroom,” Munoz said. “I don’t ever want to step in that same classroom, but be in a classroom teaching my students.”

Continuing to teach is one of the things that helped Munoz start to heal. He said returning to the classroom gave him and his students the opportunity to reclaim their learning experience.

“That first day was more of an acknowledgment of what had happened. Expressing those feelings and emotions,” Munoz said. 

After that first day, Munoz slowly started to reintroduce content. He made sure to stay away from topics that would be too heavy for the students, mainly focusing on the food and music in Cuban culture. 

With the end of the semester in sight, Munoz said he’s been feeling anxious, and he attributes it to a lack of closure. Although he rebuilt his classroom, the class itself is different. 

“The class we started in January abruptly and violently ended. There was no closure for that class,” Munoz said. “In a matter of three minutes, it was tragically changed forever.”

Not only were his students’ lives changed forever, but his was as well. 

In 2021, during the fall semester, Munoz was teaching a different class in room 114 in Berkey Hall – the same room the shooting occurred in. That day, students noticed computer alerts warning staff to lock down their classes because there was an armed person on campus. Munoz’s students immediately took action, blocking the doorways and hiding under the tables in the room. 

After 20 minutes with no updates, Munoz sent his students home. 

“That was a scare that was running through my mind, what if someone really was out there,” Munoz said. “And, lo and behold, a year later it has happened.”

To Munoz, these tragedies are especially surprising. He is originally from Costa Rica, which doesn’t have a military, so Munoz didn’t grow up with weapons as a part of his everyday life. The country has also never had a school shooting, and the thought of anyone getting a gun, going into a public place and killing people is crazy, he said. 

Due to his background, Munoz said he “chooses to be idealistic.”

“We need to believe that the world can be better, even if we cannot imagine it being better,” Munoz said. 

Munoz wishes to see a world without weapons. 

To do that, he said everyone needs to change their view of human life. Instead of worrying about personal protection, people need to respect the lives of others. 

“My father inspired me that respecting, valuing human life was more important than you defending your own,” Munoz said. “If everybody thought that way, there wouldn’t be all these deaths because I’m going to respect your life and you’re going to respect my life and as a community, we’d consider human life more important.”

Now, however, he isn’t as confident in that belief. 

“The world we live in today is not exempt from that,” Munoz said.“No one is.”

Munoz said he urges teachers and students to get politically active. Before coming to Albion College, Munoz went to the University of Costa Rica. He said he remembers that campus as being very politically active, and recalls Albion as lacking political motivation and activity. 

“Albion was this idyllic, perfect place. There was a rock where you expressed your protests,” Munoz said.  “To me, it was interesting because I was accustomed to people really taking up causes and really protesting, not just keeping a nice little space to protest, which was the rock.” 

Munoz said he wants to remind Albion that this could happen anywhere. 

“The culture of violence that has increased in this country, even a place like idyllic Albion could experience something like this at some point,” said Munoz.

Munoz hopes to see college campuses prioritize political action, but his message for teachers and students transcends politics. 

“Value life above anything. Life is beautiful. Regardless of everything we’ve been talking about, life is a gift,” Munoz said. “We need to do everything to respect other people’s lives, and in turn, people will respect your own.”

About Sophia Perrault 5 Articles
Sophia Perrault is a freshman from Davison, Michigan, and she loves to read. Contact Sophia via email at SFP10@albion.edu

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