Monday morning’s believed terrorist attack on the campus of The Ohio State University was over shortly after it began. But in the 60 seconds it played out, so much happened.
There was luck and a hero.
Put to test were all of the emergency preparations a university plans — but hopes to never use. Fortunately, OSU passed what turned out to be the toughest exam on campus.
But with all of that also came escalated fears of homegrown terrorism in Columbus, which has the second largest Somali community in the United States with 50,000 residents, behind only Minneapolis.
So much happened …
• Right place, right time
OSU campus police officer Alan Horujko, by luck, was in the area responding to reports of a nearby gas leak when Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove a car over the curb and into a crowd of students around 9:52 a.m. Horujko rushed to the scene to help, only to see the Somali-born Artan wielding a butcher knife and attacking some of the people he just ran over.
The baby-faced police officer, who has been on the force just under two years, did the only thing he could, according to witnesses. He yelled to Artan, “Drop it and get down, or I’ll shoot.” He then fired, killing Artan.
No one will ever know how many lives were saved Monday morning by his quick reaction. He’s being hailed as a hero today and deservedly so.
• Emergency plans
Some people may scowl that the campus lockdown wrongly warned of an “active shooter,” when in fact, the only shots fired were by a police officer. However, this truly was a case of “it being better to be safe than sorry.” Within minutes, the Buckeye Alert system on campus sent text messages to students and faculty warning them of shots fired. In classrooms, the alerts were flashed on computers. Dormitories were immediately locked, and in other buildings, students were rushed to safe areas. In many cases, desks were piled in front of classroom doorways for added safety.
The lockdown lasted 90 minutes.
Emergency plans by police, hospitals and other responders also paid off. Most of the 11 injured were transported to University Hospitals on campus, with the others sent to nearby Riverside Hospital. Columbus city police and Franklin County deputies were quick to mobilize. Major roads near campus — including Lane Avenue, High Street and state Route 315 — were shut down until police determined that Artan was the lone person involved in the assault.
Now, the next step for emergency responders will be to conduct a thorough review of their operations, examining what procedures worked best Monday and why, and what areas need to be improved upon.
• The grim reality
The attack followed reports of the Islamic State group urging sympathizers online to carry out lone-wolf attacks with whatever weapons are available to them, be it bombs or knife and car attacks.
It also came at a time when the U.S. is wrestling with intensified anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim fears.
“The timing is not good. We are black. We are Muslim. We are Somali. We are all the negative stigmas,” Hassan Omar, president of the Somali Community Association in Columbus, told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The assault at OSU was similar to one in September at a St. Cloud, Minnesota, shopping mall. A 20-year-old Somali-American stabbed 10 people before being shot by an off-duty police officer.
In Columbus, Artan, an 18-year-old Ohio State student, wrote on what appears to be his Facebook page that he had reached a “boiling point.” He made a reference to “lone wolf attacks” and cited radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
“America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially Muslim Ummah (community). We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that,” the post said.
Two hours before that, a cryptic post on the page said: “Forgive and forget. Love.”
It all has the Somali community in Columbus shocked and worried.
“We live in a very peaceful community,” Omar said. “This is going to affect the life of everybody. We are American, and we don’t want somebody to create this problem.”
So much happened during that 60 seconds.