Jan

20

Sixteen Years Ago Today

Sixteen years ago today, I was a high school senior.

Sixth period was drawing to a close when a PA call instructed teachers to secure their classrooms and institute a campus-wide lockdown.

I was putting to bed the latest issue of the student newspaper when the announcement came. The other six staffers assumed the confinement was due to the drug dog making one of its twice-yearly campus visits. I knew better, because I had a sinking-but-certain feeling in my gut.

In that moment, I knew that B. had come back to kill us all.

*****

Earlier that day, during fourth period choir, B. and the director — who, ironically, was a close friend of B.’s parents — had engaged in a heated verbal altercation. B. stormed out of the classroom, and no one saw him for several hours.

Turned out I was right. There was no drug dog on a leash; rather, there was B. with a gun — storming into his sixth period business class and jumping on a table and waving the gun and carrying on like a lunatic — and his classmates cowering in fear.

One student in the business class, A., was outside the classroom when B. entered it.  Hearing the commotion within, she fled to the principal’s office and reported what little she knew. As the secretary made the lockdown announcement, A. and everyone else in the office locked themselves in the book storage closet.

It was over before it even began, really. B. fled the classroom fewer than 60 seconds after entering; he was off campus before A. even reached the principal’s office.

*****

The police found B. in under ten minutes. He was sitting in his car in a gas station parking lot four blocks away, crying, with the gun on the passenger seat. He was arrested without incident.

B. insisted he’d never intended to harm anyone; rather, he’d wanted everyone to watch him die. And he hadn’t followed through — at least in part — because he didn’t know how to turn off the gun’s safety. (I know, I know. 18-year-old boy + Arkansas upbringing + doesn’t know how to turn off gun safety = creepy anomaly.)

Should I have been able to predict this? B. and I had known each other since kindergarten. He was my first kiss in first grade. The previous summer we had spent a month together in Europe. I worked with him every afternoon at a small business that employed only six people; hell, A.’s mom owned that business.

But none of us ever expected anything like this.

*****

B. spent ten days in a children’s psychiatric ward. Upon his release, he took a couple of classes via correspondence to earn his diploma. He graduated from a top-notch university. He earned his real estate license and completely restored a 102-year-old house himself, netting a sizable profit. He sheltered rescue dogs until permanent homes could be found for them.

On this blog, B. is better known as Rocco.

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