EAST LANSING, Mich. — Dozens of Michigan State students who escaped bullets from a gunman inside the student union Monday night returned Wednesday to retrieve their belongings in their desperate race to safety.

Escorted by parents, friends and FBI agents, many of the students were forced to relive the trauma of the nation’s most recent mass shooting when they re-entered a building from which they had fled less than 48 hours earlier.

“My first thought was that someone dropped a tray. Then I heard the second and third shots and I realized something wasn’t right,” said Connor Dunn, an 18-year-old mechanical engineering student who was sitting in the food court when the shooting started.

Dunn said she ran outside and managed to wave police officers inside.

He was one of several students who left the student union Wednesday with laptops, cell phones, backpacks and other personal items.

“I thought someone was banging on some metal pans or something, so I looked in the kitchen to see who it was and everyone was running,” said Andrew Strominger, a sophomore who was working in the food court when the bells rang. shots. .

He said he ran out a back door into nearby Campbell Hall, where he stayed until law enforcement officers gave him the green light to leave.

Though those within the student union did not know it at the time, the gunman had left a trail of carnage in nearby Berkey Hall before moving on to them.

Three students were killed: junior Alexandria Verner of Clawson, Michigan; sophomore Brian Fraser from Grosse Pointe, Michigan; and Arielle Anderson, also from Grosse Pointe. Five other students, whose names have not been released, were seriously injured.

The gunman committed suicide hours later in an encounter with police.

Rob Calatrava
Rob Calatrava.Deon J. Hampton/NBC News

“I have no words for what he did,” said Rob Calatrava, 22, a business student. «Everyone has their problems, but he took the wrong approach.»

After fleeing, Calatrava took refuge in a hotel, the Graduate, in front of the union.

The campus was quiet Wednesday as classes were canceled for the rest of the week and many students had gone home. But some stopped at the student union to pay tribute to the victims.

“I was probably more scared than ever,” said Bryce Rich, 20, a marketing student who was eating chicken tenders and nachos when the shots rang out.

Rich Bryce.
Bryce Rich.Rob Calatrava. /NBC News

He initially dove and hid behind a table, but ran away once the gunfire subsided. She left behind her laptop, backpack, and phone.

He said he has done a lot of thinking since the shooting, and on Tuesday night he went to mass for the first time «in a long time.»

“I don’t want to eat here ever again,” Rich said of the student union.

Strominger said he worked alongside Fraser in the food court.

“I would like to get to know him more,” Strominger said. “We all loved him. I liked working with him.»

Strominger’s mother said that she and her husband he drove to campus Monday night after the shooting to make sure his son was alive.

“We grabbed him and I haven’t wanted to let him go ever since,” Anne Strominger said after walking Andrew to retrieve his belongings.

MSU student Andrew Strominger speaks to reporters.
Andrew Strominger, MSU student.Antonio Planas-Masi/NBC News

Some students said they have yet to come to terms with the shooting.

“It was just panic,” said Katie Higgins, who was studying in the building when the shooting began, adding that she knows she will heal emotionally in time.

“I will, I will,” he said. «It’s only been two days.»