A barrage of bullets, a Kosher deli barricaded from the inside and a three-hour standoff with police is what left six people, including the assailants, dead just less than two miles from the Saint Peter’s University campus.
On Dec. 10, a Kosher market on Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive was attacked by two people with long guns. A police detective and three civilians were killed in the gunfire. The shooters have been identified as David N. Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50.
“I felt helpless, if that can happen two miles away, what’s stopping something like that from happening on campus or two miles from my house,” said senior Alexis Morales. “Of course I was worried, I was scared for the students being held in lockdowns at school after hearing the gunshots from their classrooms. Had this been four years ago, that would’ve been me.”
For Morales, who lives in the Marion section of Jersey City and attended public school before coming to SPU, the attack hits too close to home.
“When you hear about a new shooting every other day, you almost become numb to it all, but I never thought something like this would happen in my city and so close to me,” she said.
Scott Torre, Director of Campus Safety, explained that although the shooting was close to the university’s doorstep, his office was closely monitoring the situation and was in close contact with the Jersey City Police Department throughout the incident, in the event it escalated further.
“Campus Safety is hypervigilant to events as they unfold and it is our only mission to keep all of our campus partners safe,” Torre said in an email. “Unfortunately, we live in a very complicated world where hatred and incidents such as this one are all too common.”
Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, offers free counseling to students who need it.
Alexandra Tarsitano, a Senior Counselor in the office, explained that while the center has not seen an uptick in students coming in, she has had one student mention that the shooting has caused an “increase in existing anxiety.”
“It's important to understand that oftentimes people are still in shock immediately after a traumatic event, and it may take some time for those individuals to seek out help in the form of counseling, etc. so we are certainly prepared for that as a possibility in the days to come,” said Tarsitano in an email interview.
In the wake of the violence, which was reportedly a targeted attack on the Jewish community, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York has called for the New York Police Department to protect “key locations in the Jewish community.” Jersey City has followed suit, as Temple Beth-El on John F. Kennedy Boulevard also has an increased police presence.
It is unclear how long they will be stationed there.
“Part of your Jewish identity is knowing that since the existence of your religion, your people, your way of life,” said senior Devin Varela, who was raised Jewish. “There has always been people that have hated you. So you may not live with that daily discrimination or anti-Semitism, but you know it exists in the world.”
In an email sent to the campus community on Dec. 13, President Eugene Cornacchia announced that the school would be holding an interfaith prayer service on Dec. 16 at 4 p.m.
“In response to this tragedy, let us join as a university community and as people of all faiths and goodwill to listen and reflect on this incident in our community and to voice our concerns at other acts of violence and hatred that impact us all,” the email read.
Tarsitano suggested that while it may take time for some to feel “normal” again, leaning on support systems can be helpful in times of grief.
“Speaking with others about your feelings and concerns and being able to process those feelings together can be comforting,” she said. “Coming together as a community to gain support and closure can be helpful.”