CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nearly 300 Michigan State students and alumni gathered in Chicago Saturday to remember the lives lost, while also reminding each other of their strength in the face of this week's tragedy.
"They're hurting. There's pain, and they need us just as much as we need them," said Jasmine Henry, a board member for Chicago Spartans.
Walking in to candles and a warm embrace, it was a reunion unlike others in the past for these Michigan State alum.
"We're Spartan Strong, and I think that's the most important thing is that we will get through this as a community," said Fawn O'Brien, president of the Chicago Spartans.
They came together at the Tree House in River North under lights adorned in their school colors.
"I know they're doing this in East Lansing, and we're so far away that you want to be able to know that you can also help," said MSU alumni, Jessica Paski.
"Just seeing it happening in my home, it hit differently and it just, like, absolutely broke my heart," said fellow alum, Erin Smith.
"What is not broken is our bond.," added Karlyn Kelley, who is also an MSU alum.
It's been 12 years since O'Brien attended Michigan State University, but as the president of its local alumni chapter, her ties to campus still run deep but is now left rattled after the mass shooting on Monday.
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"It's very hard to kind of rationalize this place that I had the happiest four years of my life is now a place full of terror, and there are students that will never experience what I experienced," O'Brien said.
She is now turning her grief to action, planning a vigil in River North to remember the three lives taken away too soon and the many more still reeling from that deadly rampage.
"We are going to come back from this and shower the students, the faculty, the staff, and the community members who were impacted with so much love," O'Brien said.
O'Brien's efforts in Chicago come as MSU prepares to welcome its students back with classes starting Monday, exactly one week since the shooting that left three dead and five others injured.
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"I think they're going to work and meet students with where they are. I mean, there are going to be students that aren't going to be able to return to campus, but I do think there will be students that are able to return and will find kind of sort of a solace in the fact that they're back in class, they're back with their friends, they're back with their community," O'Brien said.
Organizers said they want to encourage MSU students to take advantage of the mental health resources at the university