COLUMBUS – With an expected air of anxiety in her voice early Monday evening, Judie Gaerke, of Russia, said her daughter Erin ran for her life when the gunshots rang out nearby that brought an end to an incidence of violence of the campus of Ohio State University that morning.
Fortunately, the real-time anxiety never set in. Mom knew her daughter was safe before the first media report ever aired, thanks to the Buckeye Alert emergency notification system through texting and email.
“It was one of those things that I knew she was safe before most people knew it even happened. I had already heard from her by the time the media started reporting it. I knew she was safe, but I didn’t begin to worry until I started thinking about what might have happened,” Gaerke told the SDN.
The 19-year-old Erin Gaerke is a freshman at Ohio State. The 2016 Russia High School graduate is the daughter of Jason and Judie Gaerke.
Also attending the university is her boyfriend, Nathan Platfoot, a 2016 graduate of Botkins High School. He is the son of Dick and Joyce Platfoot, of Botkins. It was his dorm where Gaerke sought refuge in the aftermath of the incident.
Gaerke told the SDN she had a 9:10 a.m. economy class in Ramseyer Hall, across a grassy area from Watts Hall. The class was dismissed early, but Gaerke stayed behind with a question for the professor.
Upon exiting alone, Gaerke was headed to the nearby Fisher School of Business to study. Just a few steps outside the building, she heard sirens, then the gunshots less than a block away. Within moments, Gaerke saw safety officers standing over a body and ran a short distance in the opposite direction not knowing if there were more shooters.
She was heading towards High Street when she began talking with bystanders. Rumors abound regarding what was happening, but a stark reality would soon set in.
Shortly, Gaerke felt secure enough to start calling family and friends informing them she was unharmed and checking their on-campus situations. However, unable to contact her boyfriend, who was to have a class nearby at the time, Gaerke began “freaking out” and headed to his dorm.
Platfoot resides at Drackett Hall, a “five-minute walk” away from the crime scene. Platfoot had “pulled an all-nighter” while studying Sunday and didn’t attend class Monday morning.
It was the commotion of the incident that startled him awake.
“I woke up around 10 o’clock when I heard sirens. Hearing sirens around Ohio State is pretty common, but there were a lot and they were going on for a length of time,” he said.
Upon getting the Buckeye Alert notice, the engineering student quickly sent a text to his family assuring them he was safe and sheltered. Gaerke soon arrived and the pair secured themselves in his dorm room. They left the building around 2 p.m. when university officials announced the threat had been terminated.
Platfoot said the social media was ablaze during their encampment. He told of constant news and updates through the three to four academic chat groups he belongs to kept the lines of communication widely open.
“Most of us want to say that in this time of uncertainty, the Ohio State staff and police were very good in how they handled the situation. They kept us informed and we all felt very safe,” Platfoot said.
He added, “I want to thank God for keeping the injuries (as minimal) as they were and not more people were hurt. I want to praise the Lord for protecting everyone in all of this.”
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.