KSU students reflect on Chardon shooting in a candlelight vigil

Freshman Amanda Hill, a former Chardon High School student, keeps her commemorative candle lit awaiting a Chardon group photo at the vigil for victims of the Chardon High School shooting, Feb. 29. Photos by Chelsae Ketchum.

Megan Wilkinson

Chardon graduates joined in reunion Wednesday night as they met to support each other in a vigil for the victims of the shooting at their former high school. Mike Depner sprayed a solid red layer over the rock on front campus.

Depner, freshman education health and human services major, woke Monday morning not to his alarm clock, but to a text message from a friend back home in Chardon, Ohio.

“My buddy texted me that there was a shooting in our schools,” Depner said. “I just watched the news all day and skipped my first class.”

Depner said he wanted to know whether his middle-school aged brother, Brian, was OK. He said the news clips looked just like what he left last spring. The only difference was the SWAT teams, stretchers and mobs of alarmed people.

Students wearing red, white and black huddled around the rock on front campus at 8 p.m. Wednesday for a candlelight vigil to reflect on the Chardon High School shootings.

Kayla Landis, president of Kent State’s chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms, scheduled the candlelight vigil after she learned about the incident in Chardon.

“I was just getting ready for a job interview Monday when I heard about it,” Landis said. “I couldn’t believe it. I called people about it and organized things from there.”

About 100 students, family members and Chardon graduates stopped by the vigil to pay tribute to the Chardon community. TWLOHA members handed out candles at Risman Plaza at about 7:15 p.m. and some spoke about the shooting.

When everyone finished speaking, about 30 of the attendees marched to front campus to paint the rock in honor of Chardon High School.

Landis said TWLOHA has hosted two other vigils this year for both James Barnes and Martin Alvord’s deaths. She said the club likes to organize vigils to better connect Kent State’s community.

“If something happens on campus, we want to come together and make sure we reflect on what’s happened,” Landis said. “Things like this bring us together, and we want to give support to people who might have lost people they cared about and give them a hope that they can still go on.”

Katherine Sheppard, freshman political science major and member of TWLOHA, said she logged onto Facebook Monday and began to contact Chardon High School students and graduates immediately after reading through the news.

“I had no issue just searching on Facebook and reaching out to some of the people,” Sheppard said. “The worst they could have done is ignore me.”

Sheppard said she talked with Nate Mueller through text message Monday afternoon, checking in to comfort him. She said Mueller was grazed in the ear with the bullet during the incident.

“We talked mostly about music and what he likes to do at first,” Sheppard said. “Just things to get his mind off the shooting and get him back to being a normal teenager.”

Michael Depner, a Chardon resident and father of Mike Depner, said he, his wife and Brian surprised Depner by attending Wednesday’s vigil.

“I saw [Kent State] get torn apart by riots in the 1970s,” Michael Depner said. “I think students back then would have been proud of the vigil tonight.”

Contact Megan Wilkinson at [email protected].