Heroes Emerge From Ark. Shooting
Mar. 27, 1998
JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) _ One teacher took a bullet for a student and lost her life. Another was wounded shielding her pupils from the gunfire. A third held a student's hand until an ambulance came.
Even the volleyball coach made a makeshift tourniquet out of a flannel shirt to help stem the bleeding for a boy shot twice in the arm.
There were numerous heroes in the schoolyard ambush at Westside Middle School that left five dead and 10 wounded.
``We don't think about our teachers, principals and school board members as heroes, but I was there and I saw nothing but heroes,'' said Loyce Lowgill, the high school's special education teacher.
Teacher Shannon Wright, 32, threw herself in front of sixth-grader Emma Pittman and was shot twice. Mrs. Wright died in surgery. Emma was unharmed.
The other teacher who was shot, Sara Lynette Thetford, was visited at the hospital Thursday _ where she was listed in stable condition _ by the mother of one of the children she shielded.
The woman hugged Mrs. Thetford's husband, Carroll, and thanked the social studies teacher for saving her daughter's life.
``How are the kids?'' Mrs. Thetford asked, according to her son, Greg, who witnessed the exchange.
Two boys who went to the school are being held on murder and battery charges. Police say Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Drew Golden, 11, ambushed students and teachers who had left the school because of a false fire alarm. Drew's grandfather said his stepson admitted pulling the alarm.
Tristian McGowan, Drew's cousin, said volleyball coach Susie Adams gave him a white flannel shirt to stop the bleeding from his right arm, which had been hit twice.
Pam Dunivan, the school's arts and crafts teacher, stayed with him in the ambulance, reassuring him that he would be all right.
``I think a lot of them,'' Tristian said.
The bullet that lodged in Whitney Irving's abdomen apparently killed her friend, Brittany Varner.
Sixth-grade math teacher Cathy Holman held Whitney's hand while they waited for an ambulance.
Ms. Holman was crying, but stayed calm. ``She said it was going to be OK,'' Whitney said. Whitney was treated and released.
Bullets struck the rear cinder block wall of the gymnasium as panicked students ran screaming back into the school. Teachers stood in front of them so they would feel safe, said Debbie Brooks, whose son, Colby, attends Westside.
Kelly Dunivan, a senior at Westside High School next door, said she could hear her mother on the two-way radio yelling that there was gunfire.
``Luckily, my mother was able to step back inside the door, pulling several students with her,'' she said.
The Rev. Jerry Jolly, a chaplain for the Arkansas State Police, said he arrived at the school within 20 minutes of the shooting and found the children still screaming in the gymnasium.
He told the students: ``The shooters have been apprehended and your parents are on their way. You're safe.''
The news calmed the students. ``It seemed to bring peace,'' Jolly said.