Three people were killed and three were injured in a shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands, Monday. The shooting occurred on a tram near the 24 Octoberplein stop.
Lamar alumnae Tammie Nolte, who moved to the Netherlands in 1995, saw the breaking news on her television as she was preparing for a lunch meeting. She instantly thought of her 15-year-old son, Adam, who takes the same tram to school every morning.
“My first thoughts were, ‘That’s my son’s tram stop. What time did he get to school? What time did this happen? Where is my son? Why isn’t he answering his text?’” Nolte said in an email interview. “This isn’t supposed to happen here.”
Nolte’s son was unharmed, but he remained at school under lockdown until around 5:30 p.m., at which point the shooting suspect was still at large.
“The schools did not have a protocol for this kind of situation,” she said. “Our school locked the doors, counted kids, and watched live local TV and police reports on Twitter. They sent email updates and updated messages on the school website. What else could they do?”
Nolte said that she always felt safe living in the gun-free country for 23 years. She and her family take the same tram almost every day to and from work and school. Her children have ridden their bikes to school alone from an early age, she said.
“I have looked at other shootings and terrorist incidents with empathy, changed my profile picture in support, or wondered what that must feel like to be in the crowd when someone runs a truck through the street knocking down people,” Nolte said. “But to be honest, those did not impact me or touch my family personally. I take this tram to work. That is close to home, work and school.”
Tuesday was a difficult day full of emotions, Nolte said. She said she cried as she drove to work, and that while she wanted to take the tram, she wasn’t ready yet, and imagined that it was probably a light tram day.
Nolte said she also wasn’t sure if she could put her son back on the tram.
“A New Yorker friend living here told me, ‘Anything can happen anywhere,’” Nolte said. “‘The World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11, so they built another one just as big. It’s scary and you probably won’t put him on the same tram Friday. But in a week or a month he will be there again. We process it, then deal with it and then get back to what was normal.’”
While the situation is still surreal, Nolte said she is trying to remain strong for her children.
“Someone at work knew a dad who tried to help and got shot,” she said. “Someone’s son was dating a girl who got shot. A colleague was walking her dog when the Dutch SWAT team ran by in vests with guns and told her to just keep walking.
“They caught the shooter one block from her house. That’s close to home. That’s not normal. And I guess now, ‘That happens here.’”
The 37-year-old suspect Gökman Tanis was arrested eight hours after the shooting, but Utrecht police have not identified him as the sole assailant, nor do they know his motive as of press time.
Olivia Malick, UP managing editor