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Downtown Chapel Hill businesses provide shelter during lockdown at UNC


Students study inside of Epilogue on Wednesday, Aug. 30 2023.

Businesses in Downtown Chapel Hill sheltered community members on Monday while UNC endured an active shooter situation and shelter-in-place warning. A faculty member at UNC was shot in Caudill Laboratories, causing the University to go into lockdown for just over three hours.

Laney Sheehan, an employee at Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews and a recent graduate of UNC, said she and others decided to move customers away from the front of the store and lock the front doors after the initial Alert Carolina.

"We kind of tried to stay away from, you know, any visibility and then we got the shelter-in-place announcement and I'm going to speak for myself but I was really freaked out," she said.

The initial announcement was sent out to UNC students, faculty and employees just after 1 p.m. on Monday and an update telling students to remain sheltered in place went out at 2:24 p.m. The all-clear wasn't issued until 4:14 p.m.

"For a while Franklin was just empty and silent, and the longer we all stayed in the lockdown I think it just got more tense," Sheehan said.

Sheehan and her coworkers brewed tea and gave out the food that the store had made for the day as the shelter in place went on. She said she and her co-workers didn't require people in the store to stay through the shelter in place, but strongly urged those who wanted to leave only to do so when they had safe transportation arranged.

"It was also very eerie, like we were all just waiting for something to happen," Sheehan said.

She said that when the shelter in place was lifted, people slowly left Epilogue, and community members and employees alike offered each other rides and support.

"It was a slow trickle out, although we also made it clear that if you don't feel ready to leave yet you don't have to,"  she said. "We're not kicking you out."

Sheehan drove two people home — one of them to Hinton James Residence Hall. She said waiting for communication from her friends on campus was incredibly difficult, but having responsibilities to people in Epilogue helped her cope.

Sabine Farer-Buers, the general manager of The Purple Bowl, said everyone who was in the Franklin Street business during the shelter in place stuck together, despite limited updates on the situation.

Stephanie Cobert, the director of marketing for Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership said businesses that housed community members during the shelter-in-place order reached out to CHDP and let them know about their respective situations.

"You want to keep people as informed as possible without, you know, putting out anything that could ramp up the fear or give people false information," she said.

On Monday, CHDP shared information from law enforcement as it became available, Cobert said. She also said CHDP has been in contact with several local businesses offering community services and support — through resources like having dogs on site and providing their services free of charge.

On Tuesday, Epilogue offered free churros and a space for community members to decompress, Sheehan said.

"To me, that's what a community does," she said. "Coming together and making sure everyone is supported and heard."


@DTHCityState |

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Walker Livingston

Walker Livingston is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science.  

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