Utica College student on lockdown: ‘My heart was beating out of my chest’

Julia Peters, 19, spoke to Syracuse.com from inside the Strebel Student Center at Utica College after being on lockdown inside a classroom for an hour and a half.

UTICA, N.Y. — As she waited along with 300 of her classmates in the Utica College cafeteria, 19-year-old English major Julia Peters said she was shaken but trying to keep calm after a campus-wide lockdown due to a reported shooting threat.

She had just spent an hour and a half in near silence with about 25 of her classmates and a professor. Students needed the restroom, so he flipped a table on its side and hung his coat up to create a makeshift bathroom, she said. 

“I pretty much sat in the corner and was quiet,” she said in a phone interview. “It was intense. …Surprisingly we kept calm but we were definitely scared inside. We all tried to support one another.”

Early on in the lockdown, someone in the hallway knocked loudly on the classroom door, about five times. The person did not identify him or herself. The room stayed quiet. 

“The scary thing about it was he wasn’t saying anything, just knocking and knocking. He probably knocked five times, and everyone just stayed quiet,” she said. “He finally walked away. My heart was beating out of my chest.”

 That’s when she decided to text her loved ones. 

“Someone was knocking on the door. I couldn’t tell you if it was a student or a cop, but it was terrifying and the first thing i thought to do was text my parents, my sister and my ex-boyfriend that I loved them, just in case,” she said. “I wanted that to be the last thing that they saw.”

Julia’s mother, Claudine, got the simple text message: “I love you.” She texted, “I you, too.” Then she saw the news and rushed to campus to join a couple dozen other parents waiting on word. 

“I called her right away. She answered very quietly,” Claudine Peters said. “She told me to stay calm, because that’s the kind of daughter I have.”

Julia Peters said the room was still and quiet until they were alerted they were going to be moved soon. Then they walked to the cafeteria with a police escort, joining the rest of the student body.

She was still there as of 3:15 p.m., several hours after the lockdown started. 

See the latest messages to the public from Utica College here.