6 months ago
More than 135,000 students students attending at least 164 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine rampage 18 years ago.
That doesn’t count the dozens of suicides, accidents and after-school assaults that have also exposed children to gunfire. The Washington Post analyzed online archives, state enrollment figures and news stories to expose the scope of the problem.
The Post turned that deep dive into a 5,000-word examination on how children react to gun violence at school. Therapists have found that every child reacts differently. Some suffer post-traumatic stress — either immediately or later — similar to combat veterans returning from war. Many have nightmares, are crippled by everyday noises, struggle to focus in classes or agonize over the fear that the shooter will come back.
“Twelve Seconds of Gunfire” follows the school children from a tiny town, called Townville, in South Carolina after a shooting on September 28. The shooter, Jesse Osborne, was 14-years-old at the time and had once been a student at Townsville Elementary. Osborne killed his father before driving to the school, then drew a .40-caliber pistol and shot at a first-grade class who was headed outside for recess.
He shot a teacher and two students. Jacob Hall, only 6-years-old and the smallest kid in the class, died three days later.
Inside the school, 300 children and teachers hid in locked classrooms, bathrooms and storage closet once the gunfire began. One child remembered someone covering up the windows with paper; another recalled playing with markers and magnets. And yet another gave an anecdote about a teacher reading a story about sunflowers.
But all of them shared a common memory of the sound of weeping.
The piece follows the lives of the survivors, including Collin Edwards, the other child who was shot, and Ava Olsen, who had decided she was going to marry Jacob Hall when they grew up.
On a wall inside Townville Elementary School’s front lobby hangs a framed dreamcatcher. Beneath its beads and feathers reads a Native American phrase, “Let Us See Each Other Again.” It had previously been sent to four other towns ravaged by school shootings. The names of each school is listed on the back: Columbine High in Colorado, Red Lake High in Minnesota, Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Marysville Pilchuck High in Washington State.
Next, it is heading to North Park Elementary in San Bernardino, California, where in April a man killed his estranged wife, a teacher at the school, and fatally wounded an 8-year-old before killing himself.