Student reflects on mock-shooting experience

By Daniel Morgan, Editor

A group of student volunteers, including myself, took the opportunity to be actors in the mock shooting on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Highlands’ Marquee Cinemas. I was approached by West Liberty University theater professor Meta Lasch to participate, and I’m extremely glad that I did.

I had originally volunteered to play a dead victim lying on the theater floor. I figured that would be easy enough as I would not call myself an “actor.” However, I ended up playing one of the two gunmen. So, I acted for about 10 seconds, and then I got “killed.” I have to say though, screaming “I’m going to kill everybody” and then being “shot at” by a SWAT officer was pretty exhilarating. Was I convincing? That I could not tell you, but I did have fun with it.

Everyone else, on the other hand, was undoubtedly fantastic. I was only in one separate theater, and I went down right away, which prevented me from seeing much of what happened. What I heard from the actors and emergency responders, though, was painstakingly realistic.

I honestly could not tell you any specifics of what the actors were saying, but the crying, shouting and gasps for air still haunt me.

Before the scene began, the students started channeling their characters. Some were fallen, already “dead” or barely conscious while others were hysterical and gasping for air. Two victims were pregnant, and some looked like they were not going to make it. For a few moments before show time, it seemed that these people I were staring at were not acting. It all felt so real and convincing, and I felt really vulnerable and scared for a minute.  

The police officers, firefighters, EMT/EMS personnel and paramedics were fantastic as well, but they weren’t acting. This was a serious training exercise for emergency situations.

When the SWAT team came bursting into the theater, it was extremely intense. It felt pretty scary to be rushing over to them with a fake gun screaming “I’m going to kill everybody!” Of course, it also worked out because I got to relax after the first one killed me. Though, once I was on the floor, I didn’t know what to expect.

I was lying there face-down during a constant rush of footsteps and radio calls; the theater seemed to be packed with officers. At one point, I felt and heard a few people come over to me, and they described me as a shooter with no vital signs, deeming me “black” (which means dead). Then, someone came over after learning that I was a shooter and “handcuffed” me. I’m still not sure why they took the time to cuff me after I had been proclaimed dead, though.

I also felt a lot of people staring at me, and at one point, there was a really hot, bright light shining on me for a while. I’m not sure if it was the WTRF cameraman or a police reporter, but it was weird. WTRF aired coverage of the event on Saturday evening.

If I said that it was just an acting exercise and that I was not afraid, then I would be lying. It felt extremely real, and it confirmed to me that mock exercises like this are necessary. It gave me a newfound appreciation for emergency responders, and believe me, there were a lot of them.     In addition to getting to partake and witness in this fantastic event, I was able to meet a lot of nice, talented people. Everyone from West Liberty University should be proud of their contributions to this event. Theater instructors Meta Lasch and Richard Deenis helped coordinate the event along with WLU Pastor Debra Dague, who is also an EMT.

The other very talented student volunteers included Carly Balog, Kayla Black, Callie Carroll, Kacie Craig, Alex Gordon, Jose Jarrett, Rachael Krems, Amanda Mandirola, Maria Matsakis, Amber Parsons, Christopher Rees, Jessica Roth, Maggie Storms, Amanda Tamplen, Destiny Walsh, Jacob Ward, Daniel White and Ingrid Young. It was really nice getting to meet and work with them. I would absolutely do it again.

Read the newest issue of the Trumpet, which hits newsstands today, for a detailed recap of the mock shooting. You can also watch me and other students interviewed on the scene here.

Photos are provided by Richard Deenis, Meta Lasch, and Ingrid Young