When she got the warning about a shooter on campus, Michigan State University student Jackie Matthews knew what to do.
She'd been through this before. The 21-year-old also lived through the Sandy Hook school shooting, as a middle school student at nearby Reed Intermediate School, which went into lockdown as the massacre took place at Sandy Hook.
“I’m not only angry and heartbroken,” she tells TODAY.com. “It just makes me want to do more and do better. We shouldn’t have to feel unsafe literally going to school.”
A 43-year-old shooter opened fire on the East Lansing campus Monday night, Feb. 13, killing three students and injuring five others. Matthews finds herself in an all too familiar place: Dealing with the aftermath of a mass shooting at her school.
"What was going through my mind was: 'Are my friends OK? Are my professors OK? Who at Michigan State is being affected?'" Matthews says. "Immediately after, I was just heartbroken that another community will have to try and recover from such a tragic experience."
When Matthews was 11, she lived through the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school. She was in a different building from the 20 students and six school staff members who were ultimately killed, but she vividly remembers the lockdown and heartbreak that followed.
"There are no words to ever describe the amount of emotion that I have felt over the past 24 hours, to just know that there are other people in this situation," Matthews explains. "I mean, there are many Oxford students who attend Michigan State and many people who have reached out to me, saying that I am not one only one who has experienced this."
On Nov. 30, 2021, a 15-year-old entered Oxford High School outside of Detroit, Michigan armed with a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun. The child shot and killed four students and injured seven other people, including one teacher.
Matthews had just returned to her off-campus home, when Matthews says she and her roommates received "notice of active gunshots at Berkey Hall," a nearby academic building.
"That's when all of my roommates and I locked our doors, shut the lights off and started contacting everybody that we knew to make sure they were OK," Matthews says. "Texts spread like wildfire. We had friends in the building as well, so it happened very quickly and escalated very rapidly."
Matthews says locking down their home was like "muscle memory," the byproduct of having gone through the Sandy Hook school shooting when she was in middle school at the same school district.
"It was immediate instinct," she explains. "I just ran downstairs, locked every door, shut all the blinds, turned all the lights off and came upstairs," she adds. "We just locked ourselves in our rooms and tried to keep in touch with everybody that we could at the time, hoping everything was OK and trying to figure out and make sense of what was going on."
The lockdown was not unlike what Matthews experienced when she was an 11-year-old in Newtown, Connecticut.
At 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, Matthews felt compelled to make a video on TikTok about her experience with not one, but two mass school shootings in her short 21 years of life.
In the video that went viral, Matthews said she was "hunched in the corner with my classmates for so long" during the Sandy Hook shooting that she suffered a fracture in her lower back. Now, she added, she experiences flare-ups during traumatic and stressful situations.
"The fact that this is the second mass shooting that I have now lived through is incomprehensible," Matthews said to the camera. "My heart goes out to all the families and friends of the victims ... but we can no longer just provide love and prayers. There needs to be legislation; there needs to be action. It's not OK. We can no longer allow this to happen. We can no longer be complacent."
Matthews says that because of her experience living through one school shooting, she has offered herself as a source of support and information as her friends and classmates navigate through this trauma.
"I told my rowing team and my sorority and all the other organizations that I'm in that I am always going to be an outlet for them," she says. "I had numerous people reach out to me about their experiences from last night — where they were at the time and what they saw — and I offered support services and lots of love.
Matthews says she felt she had to make the video because "it emphasizes the fact that the odds of being in a mass shooting in America is inexplicably higher than it should be."
"The fact that not only myself, but multiple people at Michigan State have experienced this phenomenon more than once is absolutely not OK," she adds. "It's not OK in any form."
Matthews says she's scared to go back to school when classes resume.
"I am afraid. I wish I didn't have to say that, but the fact that my education has now been interrupted twice in the form of a mass, tragic event is terrifying," she says.
Once again, she's relying on the power of community.
"After Sandy Hook, there was an overwhelming, incredible support from our community," she says. "That's something I keep emphasizing to all of my friends here at MSU — we just need to be persistent. We are a strong community. We're smart and strong and we will always be."
Matthews worries she could find herself in a third mass shooting, a fear that no longer seems so unreasonable. She hopes this time that her voice and the chorus of other survivors will evoke real change to curb gun violence.
"All we can do is hope that this will eventually end," she says. "There's no other option than to keep fighting the fight and to keep working towards this goal of creating a safer world for everybody."
Clarification, February 15, 1:45 p.m.: This story’s headline was updated to clarify that the subject was a student at Reed Intermediate School, a Newtown, Connecticut middle school near Sandy Hook.