Sands was confident enough to resume classes by 1:30 p.m., and to say: “We feel we had control of the situation and we are encouraging students to continue about their usual business.”
But anomaly or not, the glazed looks on campus, as TV news station helicopters circled the east edge of Purdue, gave way to another reality.
Boilermakers were stunned. And trying to make sense of things. And wondering, What if?
Purdue officials recognized that soon enough, canceling classes late in the afternoon and through Wednesday.
This happens on the news, not at Purdue.
Just as quickly as news about the shooting made its way around campus, word spread about a vigil, a show of strength in the face of confusion. By 8 p.m., Purdue had mustered thousands of candles of every shape, color and size for a vigil at the steps of Hovde Hall.
Thousands of students came, filling the space from the steps to the Purdue Mall Fountain. When the Purdue Bell Tower stuck 8, they fell absolutely silent, save for the shuffling of feet against the 2-degree night. Taps played against the frozen night. The Purdue Glee Club and Purduettes sang a melancholy rendition of “Purdue Hymn.”
Kyle Pendergast, Purdue student president, told about walking through the vigil crowd as it started to assemble. And he talked about how no one really wanted to be out there on a frigid Tuesday night — not under these circumstances.
“But I didn’t see people who were scared,” Pendergast said. “I saw people who cared — cared about Purdue. I’m glad I see unity tonight.
“As Boilermakers, we’re a family.”
That also happened at Purdue on Tuesday.
Dave Bangert is a columnist for the Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.