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Thoughts and Prayers: A Reflection on Grief in Crisis

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BY SUZANNAH CLAIRE PERRY

It happened again.

I checked my phone this Tuesday evening to see that another school shooting had taken place. The fifth one this week. On a Tuesday.

Like many Americans, I’ve become desensitized to gun violence. It seems that every day there’s another story about a far off shooting in a far off place. They’re senseless, they’re preventable, and they’re tragic, but they’re more of a political talking point than a loss of human life when they’re so distanced from my reality.

As I opened my Twitter feed, however, I realized that this shooting was different. The logos, the colors and the hashtags associated with this shooting were all familiar, too familiar. UNC Charlotte may be two hours away, but it’s deeply ingrained in the fabric of the Cary High community. Many of my senior classmates will be attending Charlotte next year, and many Cary alumni are a part of the terrified, grieving Charlotte community. This wasn’t just another school shooting, this was our state, these are our friends, this is our community. This is real.

I scrolled through Twitter and saw videos and pictures of students running away in fear with their hands held high, protected by policemen with big guns on a campus just hours from mine. This is a school, not a warzone. Two students were pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting. Were they two students that I knew?

Everyone that I reached out to on the Charlotte campus was shaken, but safe. I knew I was supposed to feel relieved, but as I scrolled through my Twitter page and read more details and updates from students about the attack, I felt nothing but grief. My friends and classmates in Charlotte’s class of 2023 could just as easily have been gunned down on April 30th 2020. I could have just as easily been gunned down at Cary on April 30th of 2019. These students aren’t people I know personally, but really, they are- they’re all of us. A generation lost to senseless, preventable gun violence. My Twitter page was filled with condolences from activists, chancellors, governors and even presidential candidates. Among those tweets, however was a sentiment that stuck with me as I closed my feed- “stop sending thoughts and prayers when they are not enough”.

 

With nothing on my mind but Charlotte, the lives lost that could’ve been my friends and classmates and siblings, that could’ve been me, this tweet, a sentiment I’ve seen and agreed with so many times in the wake of other mass shooting tragedies, infuriated me.

 

Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for smart, comprehensive gun legislation to prevent the senseless casualties of gun violence. But Charlotte is a real community with real people- students who have lost their friends and classmates, families who have lost their children and siblings, young adults who lost their lives, their future. Gun violence is a serious, addressable issue and we shouldn’t discount the need for legislative change to prevent future tragedies, but the UNC Charlotte community doesn’t need legislation or politicization right now– they need condolences, they need sympathy, they need support. They need thoughts and prayers. Giving thoughts, prayers and condolences in the wake of such a tragedy as this doesn’t make you weak on gun control or politically apathetic, it makes you human, and in times like these, our shared humanity is what allows us to find meaning in grieving the events that we can never change or comprehend.

Tomorrow we can fight for common sense gun legislation, tomorrow we should fight, tomorrow we will fight. But today we must fight for that humanity, we must fight to honor the victims of this shooting not as victims but as human beings. Tomorrow is for change; tomorrow we will have change. But today is for grief, for community, and for humanity; today is for thoughts and prayers, and that’s OK.

Live Updates on The UNC Charlotte Shooting

By The Page Editing Staff

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BREAKING: CHARLOTTE, NC– Two students are reported dead and four injured in a shooting on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The campus remains on lockdown while police clear every building, a process expectedo take several more hours. University officials believe that there is no ongoing threat at this time but are taking every possible precaution. Exams at the school have been cancelled through Sunday and students not in a building are encouraged to leave campus if possible. This is a developing story and will be updated.

UPDATE: 10:23 PM: The UNCC chapter of the Alpha Tau Omega | Lambda Delta fraternity released a statement stating that Drew Pescaro, a member of that fraternity was injured in the shooting and is currently being treated at Carolinas Medical Center. Pescaro is a sophomore communications native at UNCC and a Massachusetts native who graduated in 2017 from Middle Creek High School in Cary.

UPDATE: 10:38 PM: The suspected gunman is 22-year-old Trystan Terrell, a History major who dropped out this semester. Police say they have no reason to believe anybody else is involved. 

UPDATE: 10:44 PM: NC Governor Roy Cooper held a joint press conference with the Chancellor of UNCC and the UNCC Police Chief. He commended the first responders on the scene. Among his remarks were: “I want this university and city to know that this state will be there for them… for many people here, this will be the worst day of their lives,” and “this is a tough day, but the university will get through it… students should not have to fear for their lives on campuses.

UPDATE: 10:53 PM: UNC Charlotte’s Office of Emergency Management tweeted that the lockdown had been lifted. Students may go to the student union, residence halls, or depart campus.The school’s chancellor has put out a statement outlining the university’s response and offering more details on the shooting. Read the full statement here.

UPDATE 12:00 AM WEDNESDAY: The UNC Charlotte Emergency Management Office announced that the university is operating at a Condition 2 suspended state of operation as of midnight May 1st. More information can be found here.

UPDATE: 2:20 AM: The official Twitter account of the UNC Charlotte Emergency Management Office tweeted the following this morning at 2:20 AM: “NinerAlert: ALL CLEAR. Campus lockdown has been lifted. Kennedy building remains closed due to active crime scene. Continue to check campus email and emergency.” The university is still cancelling exams through Sunday and remains in a C2 suspended operations status as of 8:53 AM. Find more tweets, including updates on dining services, emotional support and other continued updates here.

UPDATE: 3:57 AM: The official Twitter account of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department has released a statement confirming that suspected killer Trystan Andrew Terrell, a 22 year old former student of UNC Charlotte, has been formally charged by detectives.  The charges levied against him include two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and intent to kill, possession of a firearm on educational property and discharge of a firearm on educational property.

UPDATE 9:05 AM: Drew Pescaro, a Middle Creek High School graduate and current Middle Creek High School student and sports writer for the UNCC Niner Times who is the only publicly identified victim of Tuesday evening’s shooting, is in stable condition after undergoing surgery. His brother Ross Pescaro, who declined to issue an official statement in an overnight interview with local news station WBTV, has confirmed that Drew is in stable condition and his family is on their way to be with him in the hospital in Charlotte. The victim’s brother asked for people to keep Drew in their prayers and to use the hashtag #DrewStrong when posting about him on social media. The Niner Times released a statement of support for Pescaro overnight confirming that he is stable and that “the full support of the Niner Times staff is behind him” as he continues to recover.

UPDATE 10:17AM: Phillip Dubois, the chancellor of UNC Charlotte, has identified the six victims of Tuesdays shooting to local radio station WBT. The four injured, one of whom has been released from the hospital, include 19-year-old Drew Pescaro and 20-year-old Sean DeHart of Apex, 20-year-old Ramy Alramadhan of Saudi Arabia and 23-year-old Emily Haupt of Charlotte. Dubois identified 19-year-old Ellis Parlier of Midland and 21-year-old Riley Howell as the two who were killed, both pronounced dead at the scene of the attack. In light of this tragedy and in respect of its victims, NC Governor Roy Cooper has ordered that all flags are to fly at half-mast for the time being.

Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with the UNC Charlotte community. We know this is an incredibly difficult time of unimaginable loss, and will continue to post updates as more details are released. Please keep communicating with those you know on campus, stay informed and most importantly, stay safe.

 

How To Choose Your College!

BY JONAH LAWSON

Are you a junior who can’t decide which college is best for you? Are you a senior who doesn’t understand what’s on your financial aid award? Then look look no further, as the information below is here to help you.

4-Year College v. Community College

Many discount the benefits of attending a community college. If you were to attend Wake Tech for two years and then transfer to NC State, you could save around $8,000 while still obtaining the same bachelor’s degree. For families struggling to pay for college, this is an easy way to save money without sacrificing education.

Small v. Large

Typical* Characteristics of Large Universities (15,000 or more undergraduate students):

  • More variety in available majors
  • Better-funded sports programs
  • Better research facilities
  • Larger alumni networks

Characteristics of Small Universities (5,000 or less undergraduate students):

  • Smaller class sizes (allow more one-on-one time with professors)
  • Advisers who know their students better and can provide more assistance
  • A strong sense of community

Urban v. Rural v. Suburban

Characteristics of Rural Schools:

  • Less networking/job opportunities
  • Less efficient transportation (especially if you don’t own a car)
  • Isolation from big cultural/entertainment hubs
  • Unique opportunities for those pursuing degrees in Agriculture or Environmental Science
  • Quieter, more bucolic settings

Characteristics of Urban Schools:

  • Compact campuses
  • Things to do (shows, performances, restaurants, shops) in free time
  • Diverse communities
  • Crowded walkways, libraries, restaurants

Characteristics of Suburban Schools

  • Blend of urban and rural (internships, transportation, and strong sense of community)

Public v. Private

Private schools offer many of the same advantages as smaller schools, as the two often go hand-in-hand. While it is true that private schools generally have higher ticket prices than public schools, they are not always more expensive in the end. Private universities have more funds (called an endowment) to provide financial aid and scholarships, which can reduce the price drastically for prospective students. If your household income is less than $60,000, a private university may give you a full ride if their endowment is large enough.

Liberal Arts v. STEM

It’s important to go to a college that accommodates your career interests. Some schools are STEM-focused, while others emphasize a “liberal arts” education. Some smaller, typically private schools are known explicitly as “liberal arts colleges” because they don’t have any graduate schools; liberal arts colleges typically excel in quality of teaching and access to professors. Davidson College, Meredith College, and Amherst College are examples of liberal arts colleges. Many universities offer opportunities for students interested in both STEM and liberal arts subjects. Although NC State may be known for its engineering school, it still offers wide-ranging majors. Check online to see what kind of degrees a college offers and what its reputation is in those fields.

Close to Home (In-State) v. Far from Home (Out-of-State)

Schools close to home/in-state may offer:

  • A place to stay if on-campus housing is too expensive
  • Support from family (occasional laundry, home-cooked meals) and an established group of friends
  • Cheaper costs among public schools

Schools farther from home/out-of-state may offer:

  • More experience in the outside world
  • More independence

Graduation Rate

A low graduation rate may indicate that a college doesn’t properly support its students academically. Maybe professors and advisors don’t help students who are struggling. Another factor could be that students aren’t satisfied with their school, possibly because faculty members disappoint or tuition is too high. It could also mean that schools often deal with underprivileged children who have a higher propensity to drop out. Checking a school’s graduation rate is a good idea, but keep in mind that the number itself doesn’t tell the whole story.

Social Life at the College

When choosing a college, one should consider both the diversity of the student body and how well one might fit in. Gender distribution and racial diversity can usually be found here. Unigo, Collegevine, and Niche are websites that offer student perspectives on university life, including the party scene, LGBT friendliness, greek life culture, political leanings, and much more.

How to Decipher Your Financial Aid Award

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  • If the words “grant, award, or scholarship” appear, the money in that section does not have to be paid back.
  • A subsidized loan is a unique government loan that won’t gain interest while you are attending school.
  • All other loans will accrue interest during your time in school and beyond–these loans are not ideal.
  • Student employment, also known as “Federal Work-Study” is a job provided by the college to help you pay bills.
  • If you have any questions about your financial aid statement, reach out to the school’s Office of Financial Aid.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for more money if you need it. It can’t hurt and might make your dream school affordable.

*Note that there are always exceptions to these generalities, and each college is unique.
Have you decided what you want in your college? Click here to find your dream school!

The 2019 Green Tie Gala: Celebrating the Fine Arts at CHS

BY JAKE BRYANT

The week before Spring Break is usually one of the toughest; at this point in the year, months from the last full-length break, many students are barely clinging on to their academic motivation. Luckily, at Cary High this week still goes out with a bang; enter The Green Tie Gala, a vivacious celebration of all of the fine-arts happenings at Cary. Not only does this occasion bring students together from all over the school, it is also a vibrant beacon of art and culture in the larger community of Cary.

The Gala began in 2007 as a fundraiser for the newly-built 3000 building. Now part of a twelve-year-strong tradition, it is still the chief fundraiser for CHS Performing Arts Booster Club. However, that’s not all it is; the Gala is also a showcase of the immense talent and overwhelming creativity Cary’s students have to offer.

The 2019 Green Tie Gala offered a form of entertainment for everyone. Even before the show, eye-popping pieces of art from the CHS Visual Arts Department were on display, and the Culinary Academy provided delectable appetizers. The show kicked off with a performance from the Concert Chorus, followed by a performance from the Beginning Band. Then, several of Cary High’s smaller, yet just as illustrious, ensembles took the stage, including the CHS Percussion Ensemble, Jazz Band, Green Eggs & Jam, and CHS Improv. The night also featured several selections from the CHS Symphonic Band, as well as a medley of solo performances from Cary High’s astonishing (no bias here) spring musical, Little Women.

However, the most jaw-dropping performance of the night was the show’s finale, in which the Cary High Band, Orchestra, and Chorus shared the stage and performed three masterworks together. This year’s finale included Verdi’s triumphant “Anvil Chorus,” John Williams’ soaring “Hymn to the Fallen” from the film Saving Private Ryan, and the epic-yet-harrowing Duel of the Fates from Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace. This breathtaking blend of beauty, power, and drama was sure to delight, move, and dazzle every audience member.

The 2019 Green Tie Gala was a huge success, and if you missed out on watching it, make sure to come next year. In the meantime, check out the Cary High Performing Arts page to catch the year’s remaining arts performances and showcases from Cary High’s finest.

The R. Kelly Charges Explained

BY EBENEZER NKUNDA

Dubbed the “King of R&B,” R. Kelly is celebrated as one the greatest R&B singers of all time. However, Kelly’s career has been filled with rumors involving abuse, paedophilia, and predatory behavior toward women. Recently, he has been sued on accounts of sexual abuse by multiple women, three of which were underage at the time of encounters. Kelly has denied each of these charges.

On February 22, 2019 a grand jury indicted Kelly on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims all under the age of 17. This indictment came one month after the release of Surviving R. Kelly, a Lifetime docu-series about the women with stories of sexual abuse by R. Kelly, ignited calls to have the singer fully investigated.

Earlier in February, Attorney Michael Avenatti, the representative for an R. Kelly “whistleblower,” handed over to prosecutors a tape featuring Kelly and an underage girl participating in sexual activities. The details of the tape mirror the child pornography allegations R. Kelly faced in 2002; he was acquitted of those charges in 2008. This evidence presented by Avenatti was what ultimately pushed the grand jury to indict the singer.

On Friday, February 22, 2019, Kelly turned himself into a Chicago police station. He appeared in court the following Saturday for a bail hearing set at $1 million, which he was unable to pay until the next Monday. (His lawyer has reported that his finances are “a mess” due to losing his contract and tour dates.) On March 22nd, Kelly’s lawyer requested a delay for the next court hearing. Kelly claimed he had concert dates in Dubai; however, this claim has been denied by Dubai’s government. The next court hearing will take place on May 7th.

In Memoriam: John McCain

BY JACK MORGENSTEIN

Senator John McCain died of a brain tumor at the age of 81 on August 25, 2018. Looking back on his life, many will recall a seasoned hero and Vietnam veteran who served our country for 23 years, or perhaps a six-term conservative “maverick” from Arizona. But the true John McCain was much more than that; he was a family man with a loving wife and seven children, a man whose passion for life earned him respect across party lines. To understand the international respect for McCain, one must look at the extraordinary life of a man who was deeply loyal to his country and beliefs. When John McCain followed in his four-star Admiral father and grandfather’s footsteps and enrolled at the Naval Academy in 1954, he never could have known the impact he would have on our country and the world throughout his long military and political career. At the Naval Academy John McCain earned the respect of his classmates, not through his stellar academics (he graduated 894th out of 899) or familial connections, but through his sense of duty and leadership.

After graduation, John McCain was commissioned by the Navy to be a naval aviator. Although McCain would eventually rise to the rank of captain, it wasn’t due to any natural talent passed on from his veteran father and grandfather; during his training as a pilot, he crashed two of his flight missions and collided with a power line during a third. An instructor rated him as “sub-par,” but McCain refused to let this get in his way; less than a year later he was marked as a “good flier.” In the Vietnam War McCain was assigned to Operation Rolling Thunder. (His deep-rooted sense of duty compelled him to specifically request a combat assignment.) During the infamous fire on the U.S.S. Forrestal, where McCain was stationed, he put himself in harm’s way and saved the lives of multiple fellow pilots.

On John McCain’s twenty-third bombing mission, he was shot down by North Vietnamese troops and placed in Hoa Lo Prison, the infamous P.O.W. camp that became known as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Even with a fractured arm, a bayonet wound, and a crushed left shoulder, he received no medical attention and was beaten and interrogated daily. John McCain’s patriotism (and quick-thinking) showed when, instead of telling the North Vietnamese the names of his fellow pilots, he gave the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. In 1968, a prison doctor told John that his wounds were fatal and that he had less than a week to live. He not only lived but helped other prisoners, even though this brought the risk of more beatings. In early 1969, when the Vietnamese learned his father was the commander of U.S. Vietnamese forces, John McCain was offered release, but he refused, requesting that every soldier before him be freed first. The torture inflicted on McCain would leave him unable to lift his arms above his head for the rest of his adult life. But actions like these, putting the lives of other Americans before his own, are what make John McCain an American hero. He embodied his belief that “it is your character, and your character alone that will make your life happy or unhappy.”

Despite an offer to be honorably discharged from the Navy, McCain continued to serve the military until 1981, when he decided he could do more good from the Senate. McCain’s military decorations and awards included the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and the Prisoner of War Medal.

McCain’s first foray into public office was a race for the House of Representatives seat in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He narrowly won the seat and was reelected in 1984. With rising ambitions, McCain ran for and won a Senate seat in 1986. Although he suffered greatly as a prisoner in Vietnam, McCain visited multiple times, advocating for peaceful relations with Vietnam. In his own words, “no just cause is futile, even if it’s lost, it makes the future better than the past.” McCain was never afraid to speak his beliefs—even when it went against the party line, such as when he openly opposed the US’s military involvement in Lebanon in the mid 1980’s. This willingness to act on his beliefs and go against his party throughout the 90’s and beyond earned the nickname “maverick.” McCain had a deep desire to make the world a better place, which inspired him to run for President in both 2000 and 2008. Despite being political adversaries, McCain earned not only the respect, but the friendship of the these two eventual presidents due to his passionate, thoughtful nature.

John McCain went on to serve six consecutive terms in the Senate before his death. During that time, his bipartisan “Gang of 14” in Congress solved a crisis over judicial nominations, and he became chairman of the Senate’s Armed Service Committee. While his congressional accomplishments were incredible, it was his clear passion for life and willingness to stand up for his beliefs, no matter the cost, that earned him the respect of his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. At McCain’s funeral in 2018, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama delivered eulogies, and former President Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as numerous other public figures, were in attendance. John McCain was an American hero whose accomplishments weren’t measured in laws but in people he helped and lives he touched. Perhaps a quote from the dearly departed senator himself sums his life best: “courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity for action despite our fears.”

 

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The Jussie Smollett Case: A Timeline

BY EBENEZER NKUNDA

On January 22, 2019, Empire actor Jussie Smollett reported receiving a threatening envelope with “MAGA” written in red ink as the return address. Inside this envelope, which was sent to his workplace at Fox production studios on Chicago’s West Side, were cut-out letters spelling “You will die black” and crushed pain reliever. A week later, the actor reported that he was attacked by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs, declared “This is MAGA country,” and hit him before wrapping a noose wet with acid around his neck. Following his report, police searched for hours going through footage but couldn’t find direct evidence of the alleged attacks. However, police did find an image of two men during the time leading up to the attack.

On February 1, Smollett released his first statement since the alleged attack, insisting that he was “100 percent factual and consistent on every level” in his talks with authorities. The next day, Smollett thanked his supporters at his first performance since the incident.

About two weeks after the alleged attack, Smollett appeared on Good Morning America to quell any doubts of the attack’s validity. Later that day, the Chicago Police informed the media that two Nigerian-American brothers captured on video around the time and location of the supposed attack were seen as potential suspects and would be interviewed. However, the next afternoon, the Chicago PD confirmed the innocence of the two brothers, and they were released, leading many to question Smollett’s testimony.

While in custody, the two Nigerian-American brothers gave valuable information that led the Chicago PD to investigate whether Smollett paid the two brothers and orchestrated the whole attack. Smollett responded to these accusations in a strongly worded statement claiming he was victimized.

Two days later, Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. The day after he was charged, Smollett turned himself in to Chicago PD, who set his bond at $100,000. Smollett continues to maintain his innocence.

The day after Smollett made bail, Fox Television released a statement that his character would be removed from the last two episodes of Empire’s current season.

After continued investigation, a Cooke County grand jury indicted Jussie Smollett on 16 counts of disorderly conduct, and on March 14th Smollett pleaded not guilty to all counts. In recent news, prosecutors dropped all charges against Jussie Smollett; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel blasted the decision as a “whitewash of justice,” while various celebrities including Ava Duvernay and Smollet’s Empire co-star Taraji P. Henderson claimed the news validated their support for Smollett.