We all have days we will never forget. May 1, 1992, will always be one of those days for me and for the thousands of others touched by a tragedy that struck too close to home. I had graduated the year before and was making my way through college (the first time). That particular Friday, I was driving down North Beale Road. With nothing on the FM dial, I switched over to AM to hear the latest news and caught what seemed to be breaking news, so I turned it up. There was some kind of hostage situation at a school, and the voice sounded urgent. The announcer said this was happening at Lindhurst High School, that there had been a definite shooting with unknown fatalities and that the school was surrounded.
In disbelief, I made a U-turn in the middle of the street and raced off towards my school. Flashes of the faces of all my friends I had gotten to know and love for the past three years passed through my mind as I sped down highway 65 in a sheer panic.
As I approached the 65/70 split, I saw the helicopters hovering above the school, one of them belonging to KCRA. Then I saw an army of broadcast vehicles and satellite antennae near the gym. That really brought it home; this was really happening.
After parking my car on the shoulder of the McGowan offramp, I walked down Olive Ave. towards the school through a mob of people running up and down the street. The closest I could get was the corner of Olive Court, where I could see the school, but it was taped off, and armed cops were everywhere.
I found one of my good friends who had a younger sister still inside the C building. He was sitting sternly on the grass. With a determined look he said, “I’m not leaving this spot until my sister is out of there,” and for the next 8 hours he would keep his word.
I saw a former English teacher looking like a wreck. In a state of shock, she kept repeating, “I can’t believe I gave him my kids.”They began to usher people away who didn’t need to be there, and I felt like I was in the way anyhow. I shook my friend’s hand and left for home, not sure what to think or do.
I headed to my mom’s apartment complex and saw a distraught girl in the office. She couldn’t talk, breathe or even cry, but stood gasping for air while people tried to comfort her. She had stood beside a student who was shot and killed; he may have saved her life.
I spent time with my mother, then went to work only to leave early because I couldn’t think about anything else. Then I headed for my girlfriend’s parents’ house and listened to the radio, waiting for the nightmare to end.
After what seemed to be one of the longest nights in my memory, the seige had ended, leaving four dead and many more wounded. The next day, I drove to my friend’s house, the one whose brother had waited for her for over 8 hours the night before. As I pulled up in front of her door, she came running out. We hugged and cried for what seemed an eternity, and somehow that made things just a little better for a while.
We all have days we will never forget. May 1, 1992, will always be one of those days.