The official student news site of Athens Drive High School


The official student news site of Athens Drive High School


The official student news site of Athens Drive High School


Shooting at UNC Chapel Hill leaves campus tense

Photos by Mia McIlhargey
UNC Chapel Hill candlelight vigil in the Smith Center to honor Dr. Yan and start the journey of healing together.

‘Are you okay? Where are you? Please tell me you’re safe. Lock your doors and windows now. Are there people with you?’ These are all the types of texts parents were sending their children, students at UNC Chapel Hill, Monday, August 28, 2023. Around 1 p.m., UNC associate professor Zijie Yan was fatally shot in a targeted attack by Tailei Qi, a student at UNC Chapel Hill. Qi was a grad student in the same department, and Yan was his faculty adviser.


Mia McIlhargey, an Athens Drive alumni and now a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill was in her dorm room and had just gotten back from eating lunch at Chase dining hall when she heard sirens going off outside her window. She looked outside to a campus flooded with cop cars, ambulances and frightened students fleeing for safety. Along with everyone else on campus, McIlhargey received a notification from the Alert Carolina System informing all UNC members to seek shelter due to an armed and dangerous person on or around campus.


“Upon reading that, I wasn’t really that worried about it, which kind of shows something about our society. I thought they were probably just around Chapel Hill somewhere,” said McIlhargey.


According to Chapel Hill has a large open campus with over 30,000 students and nearly 4,000 faculty members. The Alert Carolina system is an online method of communication that sends out warnings to students and staff on campus if there is any type of danger or crimes happening on or around Chapel Hill.


10 minutes later, students received another text warning stating “stay sheltered in place until all clear”. Many rumors were circulating around online, and students were left unsure about what was happening throughout the whole lockdown. One rumor was that the armed person was near the Genome Sciences Building. That building is right next to Caudill Labs, the place the shooting did occur. Students on campus were notifying their loved ones on what was happening, while keeping updated on local news channels.


“My parents said the usual thing that you say in that situation now, to be careful, barricade your door, close the blinds, and stay away from the window,” said McIlhargey.


The Alert Carolina texts that were sent out the day of the shooting to students and staff. (Photo by Mia McIlhargey)

Upon receiving the initial alerts, some UNC professors continued teaching, only stopping class after receiving the second warning making it clear to them that it was a very serious situation. Students within classrooms during the shooting were being evacuated by SWAT teams, army soldiers and police officers from multiple different counties. Once escorted out of classrooms, most students were left outside without direction because the teams had to get other students out as well. Many made their way to their dorms or stood near the cop cars and ambulances. 



An hour after the initial emergency calls, Tailei Qi was restrained and removed from campus. An hour after Qi’s arrest, students were still in lockdown. Like McIlhargey, students who were left alone in their dorm were uncertain about all the rumors flying back and forth; who had been hurt and what happened to the shooter.


“The worst part for me was just not knowing what was going on; nobody was telling us anything, we were all just sitting there in fear the whole time and no one was communicating to us what was actually going on,” said McIlhargey.


Three hours after the tragedy, students were let out of lockdown. Later that day, MchIlhargey picked up on a lot of conflicting emotions on UNC campus. Some people wanted to go back to normal, while other people were more stuck on the devastating event as they have the right to be.


Koury Residence Hall on a brisk summer day at UNC campus. (Photo by Mia McIlhargey)

“It was very, very sad for the whole campus. I obviously never met this teacher, but you still feel a connection to him because he walked the same campus that I walk everyday, and he was just trying to help people,” said McIlhargey.


Jennifer Munoz, English teacher at Athens Drive, is a graduate from UNC Chapel Hill. Munoz was informed of the shooting through a news station. 


“As much as I wanted to be shocked, it felt like not surprising just because there’s this sense of inevitability that I feel like is infiltrated in a lot of us. I was upset but also there was that weird sense of numbness that I think we’ve developed in the face of lockdowns,” said Munoz.


To comfort students and staff, UNC provided counseling services and therapy dogs on campus and held a candlelight vigil to honor Dr. Yan, which took place Friday, Aug 30, 2023. 


Munoz hopes that in the future people won’t focus so much on the aftermath as if it’s inevitable, and instead hopes they will focus on the system of laws that are creating these situations over and over again.


“College feels like such a safe bubble, and school is supposed to feel like a place where you don’t have to worry about the outside world, so the trauma of having that disrupted is lasting even if you weren’t personally affected,” said Munoz.

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