We wish heroes weren’t necessary. We wish school shootings, church shootings, concert shootings, mall shootings could be stopped before they ever start.
Sadly, the shootings continue and the pace of them is quickening. Don’t expect solutions from politicians, they’ve already proved themselves useless on this issue. So we’re thankful when some people become heroes. People like the school secretary at Rancho Tehama Elementary.
A Los Angeles Times story detailed how the secretary heard the first shot, then two more in rapid succession. She didn’t wait. She didn’t try to find the principal to ask permission. She didn’t call 911 to find out what was going on.
She called for a lockdown, right now.
There are only nine teachers at the school, but they swarmed the quad and rushed the kids into classrooms, locking the doors behind them.
Just in time. The demented shooter was headed their way. He rammed the gates with his truck, but by then two thirds of the classrooms were secure.
That’s when a janitor peeked around a corner. The shooter fired at him, but the gun appeared to jam. It took the killer 8 to 10 seconds before firing again. In those precious 10 seconds, the rest of the school was secured.
If the school secretary had delayed even a moment, if the shooter hadn’t been distracted, so many more could have died.
“The school secretary recognizing the threat, that quickly made all the difference between 100 kids being around today and dozens being shot or killed,” said Corning Union Elementary School District Superintendent Richard Fitzpatrick. Those few seconds, said Fitzpatrick, were critical.
“It’s monumental that the school went on lockdown,” said Assistant Tehama County Sheriff Phil Johnston said. “I really, truly believe that we would have had a horrific bloodbath at that school.”
The shooter remained on campus for roughly six minutes firing randomly. A kindergartner was wounded, but is expected to survive. Three others were hurt by glass and debris.
Elsewhere, this madman killed four and wounded 10 before being shot dead. He had already shot his wife to death the night before.
This story has so many troubling aspects. Most of his neighbors knew he was dangerous, had heard him firing off hundreds of rounds. There had been domestic violence calls and other crimes. He had attacked a neighbor with a knife – which should have been reason enough to lock him up. (If he’d attacked her with a gun, she’d likely be dead, too.)
After the knife attack, police say he was prohibited from having guns. No problem. It was still legal for him to buy gun parts – and assault weapons are so easy to assemble. His own sister said told Redding’s Record Searchlight he had “no business” owning guns. He should not have owned any gun “parts” either.
So many have been killed, so many maimed, so many scarred during the past year. We’ve heard the arguments before and still we wait for something, anything, to be done. Our politicians don’t have to ban guns, just find ways to make them safer; to keep them out of the hands of madmen. Being collectively spineless, they won’t even do that.
Instead, some are already suggesting teachers should be armed. Getting into a shootout with a crazed man is the work of law enforcement, not school teachers or janitors. Better to spend their time rushing children to safety.
Our hero at Rancho Tehama didn’t need a gun. She just needed to be alert, aware and decisive. She saved so many lives and never fired a shot.