Tabitha Maumau a student at McPherson College, couldn't believe it when she saw images of her former high school plastered all over. Images of violence that have become all too familiar in this day and age.
"It's heartbreaking," Maumau said. "At first I thought there is no way this is happening, not at my school."
It wasn't that long ago when she walked the halls of STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado. The school was not the safe haven she remembered on May 7. That afternoon, the students and faculty came under fire when Devon Erickson, 18 and Alec McKinney, 16 opened fire killing one and wounding others.
“We know two individuals walked into the STEM school, got deep inside the school and engaged students in two separate locations,” Sheriff Tony Spurlock of Douglas County said at a news conference that day.
This is just one of a string of school violence incidents nationwide. One week prior, the University of North Carolina was attacked by 22-year-old Trystan Terrell. Two were killed in that Charlotte tragedy.
Douglas County, where Highlands Ranch is situated, is south of Denver and home to about 350,000 people. It sits next to Jefferson County, where Columbine High School is located. STEM has approximately 1,800 students. Among them, Kendrick Ray Castillo, 18 who was killed. Eight others were wounded by the two gunmen who are now facing murder and attempted murder charges among others. Castillo, lost his life while saving his classmates. Witnesses said he and two other students Brendan Bialy and Joshua Jones sprang into action during the attack and charged one of the shooters.
In response to this tragedy, Maumau, made a banner and set herself up at the McPherson College cafeteria Monday. She asked any who passed to sign the Bulldog banner to show their support of her former alma mater.
"I made a banner in support of the school so they can feel our love and support from Kansas," she explained. "Sometimes when you are in situations like that, it feels like it's happening all at home, but I want them to know that they have support from all over the world."
Maumau is a graduate of the class of 2016 at STEM. She spent five years there as the school houses kindergarten through 12th grade.
"I knew a few of the students who were in the classroom," Maumau said. "A lot of my classmates who I graduated with have younger siblings there."
It's been a hard week for Maumau, processing all the information flooding in from the news, social media and folks at home.
"When I first read it, it made me sick. That was a place I felt really safe and have a lot of great memories there with my friends and my classmates," she said. "I was angry, I felt sick, I cried. It kept me up."
At a time like this, support is key. Maumau wants to be a part of that, even if she is nearly 500 miles away.
"I'd just like them to know they are loved by me. That I support them," she said. "That this is a terrible thing that happened and even though this happened they are strong, it's a strong school and a strong community."
Like so many students across the country, STEM School is also saying farewell to a group of seniors this weekend. Maumau plans on bringing the banner home this weekend, to add a little Kansas encouragement to the ceremony.
"They are loved," she said. "There's not a lot you can do, but it's unacceptable to do nothing."
Various support avenues for the school and its victims have been set up. A Wells Fargo fund for Kendrick Castillo has been made and any branch can assist donors. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support medical expenses for the shooting victims as well.
"If there is something you can do to show support," Maumau said. "They just need to feel engulfed in our love."