She was trying to teach a class that evening, but professor Nicky Kay Michael's phone kept interrupting, flooded with calls and urgent texts.
"Have you heard?" people wanted to ask. "Do you know what's going on?"
An hour away in Tahlequah, 4-year-old "Baby" Veronica was saying good-bye to her biological family Sept. 23 and leaving Oklahoma with her adoptive parents.
Teaching Native American studies at Rogers State University, Michael stayed anonymous while the custody battled played out in court and in the media.
But behind the scenes, she was one of the main leaders of Stand Our Ground, a movement that started on Facebook but swelled in protests and rallies across several states.
"When it was over," Michael said, "people were devastated, mourning and grieving. They felt like they had lost a relative."
After fighting for nearly four years, first to get custody of Veronica and then to keep her, Dusten Brown dropped all litigation last month, ending a legal battle that seemed impossible for him to win after an unfavorable ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Stand Our Ground then had its own decision to make.
"We had to step back and regroup," Michael said. "Now we're readying to move forward."
Stand Our Ground will become a permanent program under the umbrella of the Lenapeowsi Foundation, a nonprofit group that teaches stomp dancing and other elements of tribal culture.
Veronica was enrolled in a stomp dance class, and that's how Michael, as the foundation's executive director, got to know her Cherokee family.
"I got to looking at the case and realized there were some major issues," she said. "Then I realized that it wasn't just this one case."
While drawing attention to specific adoptions that might seem questionable, Stand Our Ground will also push for at least two specific reforms.
First, state officials should improve oversight of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, a law that has been passed in all 50 states to regulate the movement of children across state lines in adoption cases.
"Oklahoma seems to be in the practice of signing ICPCs retroactively, after children have already left the state," Michael said. "That needs to stop."
Secondly, all birth parents even fathers should have to appear in front of a judge to surrender their rights before an adoption moves forward, Michael said.
In one of the most contentious parts of the Baby Veronica case, her biological father signed an "acceptance of service," agreeing not to challenge the adoption.
But Brown sought legal advice the very next day, saying he hadn't understood the document.
Courts in Oklahoma and South Carolina eventually ruled that his "informed consent" wasn't given, but also wasn't necessary. The adoption became final anyway.
"Adoption is great for children who really need it," said Johnna Hurt, the other founder of Stand Our Ground who has a 9-year-old adopted daughter.
"But why are we taking kids away for adoption when they have fathers who want them?"
A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Hurt was separated from her tribe when her parents divorced.
"I was taken away from my culture when I was Veronica's age," she said. "And it's still happening to other children."
Stand Our Ground has, in particular, taken up the cause of "Baby Desirai," involving a dispute between another adoptive couple in South Carolina and the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.
Similar to Veronica's situation, Desirai's birth father is seeking custody of the 5-month-old girl after her mother arranged an adoption.
"This happens every day," said Angel Smith, the attorney who was appointed to represent Veronica in the Cherokee Nation courts. "It's happening in placements where the children and parents are in different states."
Arguing on behalf of Veronica herself, not her biological or adoptive families, Smith sought a "best interest" hearing to help the courts decide which family should have custody, or least help decide how to transfer custody.
Her efforts included a federal civil rights lawsuit in South Carolina to seek a best interest hearing there.
But such a hearing never happened, and the litigation was dropped without a final court ruling on whether Veronica had a legal right to it.
That question will have to be raised again someday, in a different case involving a different child, Smith said.
"In these particular legal matters, involving this particular child, I've called it a failure," Smith said. "It was a legal failure in that the child's rights, her legal rights, were not considered the way they should have been, in my opinion as her attorney."
Some observers including some in the Stand Our Ground movement, although not necessarily the group's leadership hoped Smith would push ahead with the federal lawsuit to set a precedent for other adopted children.
"Veronica was my client," she said. "I had to consider my client, period. And for her, it was best to end the litigation."
Michael Overall 918-581-8383