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By Tamara Young - Staff Reporter
It started out as a normal Friday morning.
And then the repeated sounds of what appeared to be gunfire sent students running and screaming across campus.
Highline student Faiz Sahrifi said he was outside Building 19 when he heard four or five shots that sounded like gunfire.
He said that he was 80 percent sure that it was gunfire, and said he was familiar with the sound of gunfire from his time in Afghanistan.
At 8:56 a.m. a text message received by students read, "We have reports of gunfire on campus. Please lock all offices and classrooms until further notice."
A few moments later another text message was sent out to the students: "This is not a drill. Close doors, close windows. Police are responding to campus."
Within minutes, the approximately 5,000 students on Highline's busy campus had either fled or were forced into hiding.
"I heard them. There was like six shots," said student Ruvim Kuzmik. "I started yelling for everyone to leave, people were just walking around smiling."
Kuzmik and several others fled to the North parking lot where SWAT personnel and local police stormed the campus. Overhead, a helicopter circled the surrounding areas of the campus.
Meanwhile, more students were becoming aware of the situation.
Highline student Joshua Kristiansen was waiting to hear back from friends.
"The parking lot was emptied within the minute," Kristiansen said. "Everyone was rushing to get out of here as fast as they can."
"I was in the Student Union building when I heard a popping sound," said Josue Bardales, another student. "I ran to Lowe's and waited to get picked up."
While this was going on, Kate Pope and other students in Building 6 were bombarded by a wave of alerts.
"The doors busted open as a huge mass of people started running in and screaming," Pope said. "Then I heard the gun shots and knew I had to leave."
The scene became frantic.
"It was not orderly at all," said Pope. "It was just people running in all directions."
Faculty within the building began to lead Pope and other students into hiding.
"Me and two other girls were shuffled into a closet. We hid behind boxes and shelves so we weren't seen," Pope said.
Despite the chaos, Pope committed herself to calming the other students.
"The other girls were in bad shape. I held one of their hands. They were calling their parents, telling them there is a school shooter," Pope said.
It was a half hour of uncertainty before SWAT personnel came to evacuate Pope and the other students hiding with her.
Highline student Faith Elder said she was in the Fireside Bistro in Building 8 when she saw people running.
After someone ran into Building 8 telling people that there was a shooter, everyone started running, she said. Elder said that she ended up hiding with other students in the Center for Leadership and Service Office.
Some managed to help others during this frightening situation.
"I had to remain calm and I helped students to find safety in the kitchen area of the Student Union Building," said Don, who works in the Union Café.
"I heard the noise outside the Bistro," said Elaina Gish, a Highline student. "I ended up hiding in an office that had no windows."
"The worst part of the incident was after the noise, people freaked out and were running in several directions," Gish said.
Highline student Silvana Garcia said she was in the Library during the lockdown and once she got the alert, complete fear settled into her.
"Everything happened so fast. At first I thought it was just a practice but as soon as everyone else started to panic, I realized this was serious," she said. "When they told us to barricade the doors, that's when all I could think about was my family. I texted my family and said I loved them."
Highline student Emma Volkman said she was in the Highline library when she got the news that there were reports of gunfire on campus.
She said that she received a text from a friend telling her to stay where she was, and received an emergency alert from Highline a few minutes later.
She said that there were not many people in the library at the time, and said that "everyone was surprisingly calm."
Volkman said that after receiving an emergency alert from Highline about barricading doors and windows, students started to barricade the stair doors and elevators on the third floor of the library by stacking desks and chairs.
Highline student Fatima Gonzalez said she was in Building 18 during the incident and she and her classmates became more united.
"It was so scary to think that someone could have been ready to kill," Gonzalez said. "Thinking about the last shooting in Florida and how many died, I couldn't help but wonder if I was next. The whole situation made my whole class a lot closer."
Some students and faculty were evacuated into Building 7, where armed guards watched over them. Outside, the search for a potential shooter was still underway.
"We were in there for an hour, even though they said it was safe," Kate Pope said. "A lot of people were very skeptical. They don't really trust the police with all their big guns."
The stress of the situation was too much for many, Pope said.
"There were people throwing up and a couple girls with anxiety attacks that had to go to the hospital," Pope said. "It may have been fake now, but what if next time it's not?"
Emma Volkman said that after the all-clear, she "[felt] relieved because that's when you realized nothing was actually going to happen."
She said that she is still shocked that the event happened, and said that there should be stricter gun laws and changes made to gun legislation.
"Overall, something should be done," she said.
Faith Elder said that even though there was not a shooter on campus, the issue is very real for students.
"We shouldn't have to have that threat, which is why we need gun control," she said.
"We're still scared," Elder said. "The threat is still real to us."
"I believe that we should have someone on campus that is armed," Josue Bardales said. "I mean we call people who have guns to come help when something like this happens."
Bardales said that they felt like he needs to carry pepper spray for protection. And because of this event, he feels a lot more on alert, more aware of his surroundings.
Highline student Steven Tran, who was in Building 22 during the incident, said that this should bring up the conversation of gun control.
"I didn't want to accept that this was actually happening at our school," Tran said. "You see this on the news and you think it will never happen to you but the reality is that it can happen anywhere and at any school. We need to talk about gun control because even though it was a false alarm, we can't forget that this happened a couple weeks ago in Florida with a more horrendous outcome."
Reporters Byron Patten, Tamara Young, Chloe Wilhelm and Perris Njenga contributed to this story.