Ohio State student from North Carolina recounts tense chaos of attack

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
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Erin Oehler, from Tabor City, NC, spoke to ABC 11 via Skype at her home in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVD) -- Back in the safe confines of her home in Columbus, Ohio, Erin Oehler spoke to ABC 11 via Skype about the tense moments during Monday's attack on the Ohio State University campus.

She's from Tabor City, a small town about 80 miles south of Fayetteville, and she spent four years in Chapel Hill as an undergrad at UNC.

But now, she's studying law at Ohio State. And this morning, amid the chaos, Oehler was looking for somewhere to hide

"My instincts were just go somewhere safe, call my family," Oehler said.

Oehler was inside the law school when that Buckeye Alert crossed her phone: Active shooter on campus. Run. Hide. Fight, the text read.

Confusion and rumors were spreading fast.

PHOTOS: Scene secure after OSU attack

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Students leave buildings surrounding Watts Hall as police respond to reports of a shooting on campus at Ohio State University on Monday. (John Minchillo)
John Minchillo

"Initially we were thinking there were three of them. That there were two, one had a gun, one had a knife," Oehler said.

It was a lone attacker armed with a butcher knife and it was immediately breaking news.

"Both my parents, actually my entire family lives in North Carolina, so I knew if the news broke they would feel uneasy," Oehler said. "I called my mom and the first thing I said was 'I need you not to panic.' "

The attacker turned out to be about seven blocks away from where Oehler was at the law school. But the initial alert never mentioned a location, so Oehler led her classmates to a locked office where they could shelter in place. She had pass to a suite on the first floor, protected by key card access.

Read more about the attack here.

"So, I was walking down the hallway just kind of grabbing people and telling them I'll let you in the journal suite and we can just hang out there," Oehler said.

Shock on campus went right up to the school's vaunted football program.

Tyquan Lewis, the Buckeyes' football standout from Tarboro tweeted, "Everybody on alert. Shooter on campus." Then later," Crazy world we live in man."

Back inside the law school, Oehler's husband, had heard the news. The two have been together since their days at UNC.

He texted, "I would feel much better if you could get home... But don't dare move unless it's safe."

Oehler didn't move. She and her classmates keeping themselves distracted with homework.

"Just distract ourselves and just take the situation minute by minute and not try to overanalyze everything," Oehler described.

Oehler says after she phoned her parents back in Tabor City, she turned the ringer off on her phone.

If the attacker was inside her building, she didn't want him to hear her cell phone going off.

Fortunately for Oehler and everyone locked inside that law school suite - it never came to that.

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