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After tragedy, students sought support from each other

Maureen Windle, associate director of Counseling and Psychological Services, said very few School of Dentistry students took advantage of the resources offered the day after dentistry student Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were killed.

She said she and four other therapists went to the School of Dentistry the day after the shootings. No students sought individual help, although Windle approached some students to ask how they were doing.

“The therapists saw no people that day,” Windle said.

Windle said it’s typical for very few students to take advantage of counseling made available in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.

“When you’ve experienced a tragedy, most individuals seek support from their own support system,” she said.

Shamira Lukomwa served as president of the UNC Muslim Students Association in spring 2015.

“I’m still unpacking everything that happened this year,” Lukomwa said in November. “That day I went to my first class of the day, broke down in tears and had to leave. I didn’t go to any of my other classes. The whole day was a blur.”

She said the Student Union and UNC’s administration provided lots of help to her and other affected students, but the way some professors handled the situation was disappointing.

“Some professors were saying this isn’t your immediate family or your best friend, but what they failed to realize is that people who didn’t know them personally or were just acquaintances, our identity is so tied to what happened to them, and knowing this could happen so close to home really affected and rattled people,” she said.

Jane Weintraub, dean of the School of Dentistry, said she was very concerned for her students in the aftermath of the shootings.

“In the dental school experience, people are with each other all day long, sitting next to each other in class, lab and working together in the clinic,” she said. “I think everyone was very affected. No one will ever forget that day.”

Weintraub said she personally witnessed students coming together to support each other.

“I will never forget the image that I have of our students standing together with their white coats on,” she said. “They were standing in the Pit with the melting candlewax on the ground.”

She said she’s been continually inspired by how her students have handled the tragedy, including their creation of Deah Day, a day set aside for community service.

“I’m moved to tears when I hear about it because I’m so proud of them and how they’re doing all this community service,” Weintraub said.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said in addition to providing spaces, counseling and transportation to students, administrators worked with the Muslim Students Association to help them feel safe.

“We did anything we could think of to send a message to our community that all are welcome and included.”

Crisp said he was proud of the way he saw students come together after the shootings.

“This University is always at its best at its worst moments,” he said. “The people step up and come together and rally around each other, and you really get to see the heart and the spirit that we really want to have in this place all of the time at our times of deepest sorrow.”

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