Part 1- Hiding
Bang, Bang, Bang! I heard from the stairs below me. The murderer that had entered the school as a “visitor” had already shot down three people. And he was after me next. All I had to do was find an open classroom. But I knew if I knocked on any doors no one would let me in.
I decided the best thing to do was to duck inside the bathroom and stand on a toilet, waiting for signs of “all clear” or for the police to arrive. I have no idea what happened to the three people behind me, but it was clear they wouldn’t be coming to school anytime soon after all of this was over. I didn’t even know if I would survive the next few minutes.
A few doors were already closed in the girls’ restroom. There were other people here. How was I supposed to know whether they were students or shooters? What if there were multiple shooters? What if they already beat me here?
I shut out my paranoia and stood on a toilet so no one could see my feet. I heard weeping coming from the stalls next to me. I like to think I’d been strong for the last ten minutes, but at this point I was sobbing with them. We had all been out of class when the shots started firing. I had been leaving to go to an appointment. Who knows if I’ll ever actually GO to that appointment. The thought of dying before I can get my teeth fixed isn’t very pleasing.
Today was supposed to be a normal day. A normal Wednesday. With normal people, in a normal school, in a normal town. Nobody would’ve expected that there would be someone terrorizing classrooms, injuring and killing the people we call friends.
The girls in this bathroom with me, what are their stories? How many people have they seen die? How long have they been here?
I was snapped out of my thoughts by repeated gunshots coming from a nearby classroom. My instincts told me to get out.
“Who’s here?” I whispered, panicked.
“Cameron?” I heard the familiar voice of my classmate, Anna.
“Anna? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I was just trying to use the bathroom and well, this happened,” she said, obviously agitated with the situation.
“Are we the only ones here?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure. No one else has come in.”
“Should we try to get out of here? I’m scared they will come into the bathroom.”
“Are you insane?” she said, not an ounce of humor in her voice.
“Maybe a little bit.”
I jumped down from the toilet, and got ready to run. This is it, I told myself.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come?” I asked for one last time.
“I don’t know…” Anna said, skeptical about the chances of survival.
I looked around the corner out of the bathroom to see the lights were off, and nobody was nearby. It was dead quiet. If any time was the right time to leave, it was now.
“We need to go now; I’m leaving with or without you.” As I said this, I started tiptoeing back around the corner when I hear a sudden jump that startled me.
“Well, let’s go then,” Anna said, a worried look on her face.
Part 2- Running
We attempted to be silent, yet quick, cautiously turning all the little corners in this complex school. All throughout, we heard bullets in all the classrooms and it sickened me to realize that many of my friends were probably dead or injured.
“Cam,” she whispered, panicking. “Look.”
I was really hoping she had found an exit, or maybe an empty classroom to hide in, but I was mistaken when I found that her finger was pointing to a shooter.
A man, about six feet tall stood at the end of the hallway, getting ready to burst into a classroom. That classroom was the class I was in before I “left” for my appointment. Anna was in that class too.
“No,” she whimpered.
“What?” I questioned.
“My best friend is in there,” she sighed, tears running down her face.
“It’s okay,” I assured, embracing her. I truly didn’t know if it was going to be okay. I hoped that maybe he would run out of bullets, or the police would get here and take care of it.
“NO. IT’S NOT OKAY,” she yelled. And my greatest fear became true.
He was staring right at us, gun pointed at Anna’s head.
Part 3- Tragic
He rose a finger to his mouth, signaling us to be quiet. His expression said he wouldn’t shoot us if we didn’t do anything. Anna didn’t get the memo.
She charged at him, screaming, hoping to jump on him or at least distract him. She didn’t get the chance. He shot her down as soon as she got halfway across the hallway.
I jumped behind the corner, attempting to process what had just happened. Where did he shoot her? Would he come over here to shoot me? So many thoughts were going through my head. Anna wouldn’t survive. All she wanted to do was save her best friends and everyone else at this school still alive. All I wanted to do was look around the corner, see if the shooter was still there. Take a look at Anna.
I heard the shooter attempt to shoot her again and finish the job. All I heard was the clicking sound of an empty gun. No doubt he had many more packs of bullets, but this was my chance to avenge Anna and everyone else who passed today.
I jumped around the corner to see a surprised shooter, and charged right into him, knocking him to the ground. The adrenaline I felt at this moment was unreal. I searched his pockets for any extra gun packs and grabbed three. Then I ran, hearing his fast-paced footsteps following me around every twist and corner. I got out my phone during the process and called the police.
“911, what’s your emergency?” the operator said, calmly.
Out of breath, I got out a few words: “West Middle school…” “Guns…” “Help…”
“We’ll be there right away,” the operator replied, more urgency and concern in her voice.
I continued running towards the exit, the door where the police would come. I already heard sirens; the police station was only a few blocks away from the school. I ran right out of the school with the shooter still on my trail. I quickly shoved the bullet refills in the trash and ducked into the bushes, watching for the shooter to come right out into the trap.
And he did. Multiple policemen had their guns pointed at him. He dropped his gun and put his hands up in surrender, with a look of disappointment on his face. It usually wouldn’t give me a feeling of victory to get a man arrested, but today was different. This man had killed tens (possibly hundreds) of people, people that I knew. It was a strangely satisfying feeling to get rid of him.
Part 4- Realization
Some people went inside to search the school, others taking the man away to a squad car, guns still pointed. My mind was still on Anna. A 14 year-old, robbed of her life for who-knows-what reason.
“Do you have any injuries?” a police officer asked me, a notepad in his hands.
“Not physically,” I said, unintentionally sassy. “Sorry, I’ve just been through quite a bit in the last half hour.”
He gave me an understanding look. “Is there anyone you know of that we can recover?”
“Anna Emory, in the upstairs north wing.” I replied, monotone.
“Thank you, for saving many innocent lives,” He ended our conversation and went back into the school to search.
I sat on a bench outside after being given a blanket (considering it was winter) and some crackers to munch on. My mind was still corrupted with paranoia, wondering who was still alive and who wasn’t that fortunate. I was desperate to know whether my little brothers, Jack and John (the twins) were still alive. There were three years younger than me, in fifth grade, at age eleven. I hadn’t really thought about the idea of them being shot until now, because my mind has finally cleared a little from the ‘save yourself’ mindset.
The police began walking back outside, with a countless amount of stretchers, all with children and teachers on them. They either had oxygen masks, or sheets over them.
Luckily, more people walked out, uninjured, than people who were injured. I spotted the spitting image of little John standing in the cold, uninjured, shivering.
I was overfilled with joy. “Johnny!” I yelled, grabbing his attention. A smile grew on his face.
I picked up my little brother and held him like if I never let go, nothing bad would happen in the world ever again. “Where’s Jack?”
“I don’t know,” he said, eyes searching all around for signs of his twin brother. “We weren’t in the same class.”
I decided to hope for the best as my parents’ car rolled up. Mom and Dad had tears in their eyes, running up to us with my older sister Bea. They hugged John and me tight, but the joy on their faces was quickly replaced with anxiety as soon as they saw Jack wasn’t here.
So we waited, and waited, and waited, on the same bench I was on before. Where could Jack be? Of course, we couldn’t see the people under the sheets, they were covered. But we didn’t see Jack with the injured people either.
My mom and I had small talk while John cried into my dad’s shoulder and Bea listened to music with her earbuds. My heart was beating faster by the minute, even though with my parents around I was playing it cool.
The police brought out one more body and loaded it into the ambulance. After they were done, we asked a police man about my brother.
“Is Jack Roland accounted for?” I asked nervously.
He sighed with empathy. “Are you all immediate family?”
“Yes,” my mother said quickly before I could respond.
“Why don’t you come into the ambulance with us?” he gestured to the ambulance to our right.
We hopped in, hoping he would say that Jack was just injured and that we just missed him among all of the others. We were mistaken.
“Jack sadly suffered a bullet wound to the head,” the policeman, whose name we now knew was Tony, explained. “From what we can tell, he died on impact. No suffering or pain.”
My mother and father were holding hands, crying together, as were John, Bea and me. I knew we weren’t going to recover anytime soon.
My mind wasn’t on the shooter, it wasn’t on my parents, it wasn’t on Anna, it wasn’t on anyone but Jack. Sweet, sweet Jack. The younger twin. A great student. A little boy who had dated more than I had. But, most of all, a human, with a soul. A great soul, who didn’t deserve to die at age 11.
My parents made me go home that night. I thought sleep was out of the question, but I was wrong. I slept like a dog because of the exhausting day before this. And I had many, many nightmares about how that day could’ve gone differently.
Part 5- Casualties
In the morning, my parents woke me up and told me I had an interview on the news about what happened. It turns out people were praising me as a “hero”. How could I be a hero if I couldn’t save my own little brother?
I learned when I got to the news station that there was a grand total of 22 children dead, and 28 injured, all from gunshot wounds. They called it the “worst school shooting in the last ten years”. It definitely felt the worst for me, being involved and all.
The interview itself went fine. I managed not to cry, surprisingly, but I definitely thought about It a couple of times. Having to talk about my deceased brother and friend on a Thursday morning definitely wasn’t my cup of tea.
My parents were taking this even worse than I was. I hope I never have to understand the feeling of losing a child in such a horrible way. They would cry every day, for months and possibly years, desperate to get the child back they lost so soon.
They were hurting, and so was I. But the rest of the world has already moved on, and we have to as well.