West Ottawa graduate and Michigan State University mass shooting survivor speaks up


Amber Mazeikis

Timberlyn Mazeikis speaks about her terrifying experience on campus at MSU

Derick Garcia

For thousands of families in Michigan, Feb 13, 2023 was a day of terror. On this day 3 Michigan State students were killed in a shooting on MSU campus. It took police 3 and a half hours to apprehend the shooter. Eight students were shot and Arielle Anderson, Brian Frasier, and Alexandria Verne lost their lives to gun violence. Timberlyn Mazeikis, a 2021 West Ottawa graduate, was one of the thousands of students and former West Ottawa graduates who sheltered in place. Now, she is using her voice to bring attention to this issue and bringing change and hope to communities in West Michigan.

At the time of the shooting Mazeikis was a sophomore at MSU studying elementary education and Spanish. Weeks after the shooting Mazeikis decided to transfer to The University of Minnesota in the fall to study political science.

Since the shooting Mazeikis has spoken at rallies,  Ottawa County Commission meetings and the Capitol in Lansing. Her most recent speech was at the Wear Orange event hosted by the lakeshore chapter of Moms Demand Action. The Wear Orange Event gave the community opportunities to write love letters to hurting communities affected by gun violence, make phone calls to representatives from their county, decorate the sidewalks of centennial park with messages such as “enough is enough”, talk to a representative of the Moms Demand Action organization, and listen to powerful speakers such as Mazeikis.

Mazeikis told her story to crowds of Holland residents who attended the Wear Orange event on Sunday. Mazeikis is an intramural sports ref for basketball during the spring. She was reffing one of these basketball games in the Intramural Sports West building when the shooting began. Her supervisor came into the gym, telling them to get against the gym wall. She and everyone on Michigan State’s campus knew what was happening. She spoke about barricading the doors, which did not lock and only opened outwards, with 2 folding tables and the few chairs they had. She spoke of the conversations during lockdown, who would be their first line of defense? Who had fighting experience? And who was willing to throw themselves into harm’s way to give the others time to get away? It’s a conversation that every student hopes they will never have to have. They passed around the one phone charger they had, hoping to keep their phones charged enough to tell their families goodbye. Mazeikis says she now carries with her “an emotional support bag” and brings a phone charger with her everywhere she goes.

“When one set of doors suddenly opened from the outside, people began to scream as we all jumped up and began to run for our lives,” said Mazeikis. “At that moment, I was sure I was about to die. Looking death in the face is a feeling that I cannot shake nearly four months later.” After piling themselves into a supply closet in the gym, an employee of the intramural sports west building came to escort them to safety. But none of the students knew who he was. Assuming he was the shooter that had entered their campus, they ran for their lives. Mazeikis states that her experiences during this shooting have “permanently traumatized” her and millions across the world. Her experiences have also led her to change her college degree and career plans. In the fall Mazeikis will transfer to The University of Minnesota to study political science and pursue a career working for an organization, such as Everytown for Gun Safety, working on campaign teams or running for political offices.

Her speech brought tears to her family and everyone who listened. But to end her speech, she gives us hope. Hope that there is a better future for us if we continue to fight for it. “I am exhausted, and I am fed up, but I stand here today speaking to you, because I know that it does not have to be this way,” said Mazeikis. “We can end gun violence. It is not going to be easy, but our children, our teachers and our loved ones are far too important to stand back and wait for the next shooting. We deserve to feel safe in our schools, our places of worship, our grocery stores, and our communities.” As Mazeikis says we can end gun violence and there are dozens of organizations trying to help us. Some of these organizations include Moms Demand Action, who hosted the Wear Orange event. Mazeikis is a member of Students Demand Action at MSU, which aims to spread awareness about gun violence and encourage students to research before they vote, speak up about gun violence, and participate in events such as walkouts, rallies, protests, and marches.

In May, Mazeikis spoke at the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners meeting after the board declared itself a “constitutional county”. Meaning the board would not authorize funds or resources that enforce any kind of law or regulations on firearms.  Mazeikis retold her story of surviving the shooting and told the board that this declaration was a “complete abuse of power”. “Speaking to you today is scary, but nothing will ever compare to the fear I felt that night when a shooter entered my school”, said Mazeikis. “Ottawa County will always be, and has been, my home. Over the last two years, I have found a second home at Michigan State. I have already lost one home to gun violence. Don’t allow it to become two.” Mazeikis has lived in Holland her entire life until moving to East Lansing to attend Michigan State University. She greatly fears that as a “constitutional county” she will lose her home in Holland to gun violence, just as she has lost her home at Michigan State.

On March 15th Mazeikis attended the rally held at the state capitol in East Lansing. Here she spoke to reporters and people opposed to the passing of “red flag laws”. Red flag laws include safe storage laws, universal background checks, and extreme risk protection orders. These laws were recently put into place after a vote by the state legislature. Mazeikis told reporters that she strongly supported the passing of red flag laws and believed that they would help end the senseless loss of life to gun violence. She also encouraged people to “keep fighting”. “They can’t stand back and wait for the next shooting to happen. Because we waited too long and now there are three of my classmates dead,” said Mazeikis.

Mazeikis is such a role model to everyone around her. She shows that we can take the things we go through and the things that happen to us and turn them into motivation to make necessary change. Seeing someone from our own community make such an impact on the world is inspiring. We all have the power and voice to create change.