For the city of Clawson, the Feb. 13 mass shooting at Michigan State University hits especially close to home, because it took one of its own. The mass shooting tragedy began around 8:18 p.m., after which a manhunt on campus and the surrounding East Lansing community ensued for roughly four hours before law enforcement located the gunman a few miles off campus in Lansing.
Three students — Alexandria Verner of Clawson, Brian Fraser of Grosse Pointe and Arielle Anderson of Harper Woods — were slain by the gunman, and five others were hospitalized. The 43-year-old gunman Anthony Dwayne McRae also died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound the night of the shooting. Law enforcement officials have confirmed McRae had no affiliation with the university.
As the Clawson community continues to mourn the death of Verner, a 2020 Clawson High School graduate and one of the three students killed in the tragic mass shooting, the tight-knit community has also found ways to celebrate the extraordinary life that Verner lead.
Public gatherings in honor of Verner began with two candlelight vigils on the football field at Clawson City Park Feb. 14-15, followed by a series of fundraiser and memorial events held by local businesses, with more coming up during the Feb. 24-26 weekend. The Old Detroit Burger Bar, where Verner worked as a waitress, was one of the first businesses to lead a fundraiser in her honor.
The burger tavern held an all-day fundraiser event, with proceeds from the restaurant going to support the Verner family, and had a table selling T-shirts with the motto “MSU Strong in Clawson” printed on them, lawn signs, and stickers to raise donations as well. But just as importantly, the event gave her friends, loved ones, and the community a space to come together to grieve, process, remember, and heal.
One Detroit’s Chris Jordan takes viewers to the candlelit vigil on Feb. 15 and to Old Detroit Burger Bar on Feb. 17 for a look at how the Clawson community has started to heal after losing one of their own. Jordan talks with Lisa Sarvello, who organized the Old Detroit Burger Bar fundraiser and worked with Verner there, Clawson coach Derek Custer who organized the production of the T-shirts and other fundraiser merchandise and also coached Verner in high school, and Verner’s friend and fellow student Nate Vesper.
“I think the hardest part for all of us is how hard this is impacting a bunch of people that we love, from our friends’ parents to our friends themselves and their siblings, and just kind of watching the whole community hurt at once,” Vesper said.
Additional fundraisers in support of Alexandria Verner and her family are taking place throughout the weekend. On Friday, Feb. 24, Kahve will donate 100% of its coffee sales to the Verner family. Saturday, Feb. 25, Eclipse Yoga will host “A day of yoga, love and community in honor of Alex Verner,” in which all proceeds will benefit a new Alex Verner Scholarship for future Clawson High School graduates. TwyFit Fitness Studio will host two special Sunday yoga classes with proceeds being donated to the Verner family.
Chris Jordan, Editor, One Detroit: As communities all across Michigan and the nation try to process their trauma over last week’s mass shooting at Michigan State. Here in Clawson, the tragedy hits especially close to home. As the community mourns Alexandria Verner, a class of 2020 Clawson High grad class.
Nate Vesper, Friend of Alexandria Verner: Clawson itself is such a small, tight-knit community. I think the hardest part for all of us is how hard this is impacting a bunch of people that we love, from our friends’ parents to our friends themselves, to their siblings. And just kind of watching the whole community hurt at once.
Billie ShellenBarger, Superintendent of Clawson Public Schools: My name is Billie Shellenbarger. I’m the proud superintendent of Clawson Public Schools. An incredibly proud former principal of Al Verner.
Chris Jordan: But in a small city like Clawson, the support network is strong. The tight-knit community rallied together quickly, holding candlelight vigils on the football field at Clawson City Park on Tuesday and Wednesday to honor Alexandria and her legacy.
Unknown Speaker 1: And we do that by embodying what she did. We do that by exuding kindness like she did. We do that by looking out for those around us like she did. We do that by being a positive role model and influence on others like she was. And we do that by making an impact like she did.
Nate Vesper: I definitely think one of the good things that’s come out of this is that, we’ve really seen the community come together and be here for each other and hopefully we come out the other end doing something more powerful than what we started with.
Chris Jordan: The outpouring of support for the Verner family, Alexandria’s friends and fellow students has continued. With several local businesses planning fundraisers in her honor.
On Friday, the old Detroit Burger Bar, where Alexandria worked as a waitress, held an all-day fundraiser event, giving the community a space to gather, to grieve, remember, and offer each other support. The fundraiser was in support of the Verner family, with a percentage of the restaurant proceeds donated to the cause and a table selling MSU Strong in Clawson shirts, stickers, and yard signs to raise donations.
Lisa Sarvello, Fundraiser Organizer, Old Detroit Burger Bar: My family and I are very close to the Verners. My kids went to school together. They played sports together. There just wasn’t… As soon as we found out, there just was no hesitation. It was just what can we do immediately. And Al worked here with me. So we right away decided that we would pull together a fundraiser for today. And then I got in conjunction with Derek with the t-shirts, and it’s been just overwhelming the outpouring of affection and support.
Derek Custer, Fundraiser Merchandise Organizer: Clawson Coach: I’ve known the Verner’s for a while now. I coach the kids in sports. So I was like, I’ll throw out, make some t-shirts and raise some money. And it’s turned into a huge thing. And Bonnie Swope and a pop-up studio. We’ve done other fundraisers in Clawson to support other local kids that have gone through, you know, illnesses and that and everybody has done it then too. And I think it just helps out that we’ve done those to be able to handle something like this magnitude. And it’s all just been a community thing coming together. We’re on pins and needles but we’re pulling it out. I mean it’s something this short of time too. It’s amazing.
Nate Vesper: I mean, for me, the big deal is as much as like the charitable donations going towards the family from meeting here, just being here, being around our friends. Being here with people that were friends with her. It’s been really comforting for sure. Just to be able to come home and, you know, hug a bunch of different people you love, know that you just have so many people that are there for you at a time where it’s really hard and you could really use some support. Just, know that the people that are hurting the most are being well taken care of by the community itself is really nice to know at this time.
Lisa Sarvello: When I got here this morning, the entire restaurant was full. We love the Verner’s. They are a wonderful family. They do a lot for this community. They’re you know, they’re a pillar in this community. And Al, there’s no words, no words to describe it. She was a beautiful young lady, kind, considerate. She helped special ed. She was very, very big in helping kids with special needs. Like anybody that needed something. She didn’t care who you are or what you were. It was just she helped whoever. And people need to start just being as kind as she wants.
Derek Custer: To fill her shoes now.
Lisa Sarvello: Yeah, they’re big, big shoes to fill. Very big shoes. She was just an amazing, amazing young lady.
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