Talon News - Good Local News

By Jessica Selph
TALON 

A HERO'S STORY - PART 1

Thomas "Emery" Hill

 

December 29, 2017

Jacque Ritchie

Thomas "Emery" Hill accepted a certificate from the school board at their recent meeting, humbly insisting that he wasn't a hero

Emery Hill is no ordinary high school janitor. I remember feeling a great amount of comfort knowing that he, a long-time family friend and genuine good guy, would be around as I registered my son for his freshman year of high school. Not for the reasons we know today but because I knew Emery's heart. I knew that he would watch out for my boy and keep him out of trouble. But here's the thing, Emery does this for every student on campus. Our children are his children too. He says he would adopt them all if he could. Even the naughty kids adore Emery! He just has a way with people.

Emery has been with AHS for nearly four years so you can imagine that he would have a daily routine, however, Thursday, December 7th was anything but routine. Actually, he was scheduled to be gone at the time of the shooting. Emery was preparing to leave for a doctor's appointment when he received the call that a fuse had been blown in the 900 building. Emery figured he would have just enough time to fix the fuse and still get to his appointment on time, but as he entered that building, through the northwest stairwell, something went terribly amiss. Emery replays it like this: "As soon as I reached the top, about 10 feet ahead, I heard shots. That's when I hollered (through the radio) 'shots fired, shots fired!' He repeated the statement again and again, "because during emergency situations you try to repeat yourself because the first go round nobody hears it, or they catch bits and pieces of it. From there on, I remember seeing Mr. Sexton running, shutting his door, getting his lights off; Mr. Lanier getting to his door, and I got down to Candelaria's and I still didn't see where the shots were coming from. Then one of the teachers that I was going to fix the breaker for, Mr. Flack, threw open his door and hollered at me to come back to his room. I remember just standing there for a second, I was making sure there was nobody in the hallways before I took off and I started for his door at a pretty good run. I looked back over my shoulder and that's when I saw the young lady right there ... that's when I saw him and her. The only thing I can figure is she was in the lady's restroom, but that's when I saw the shooter and her, and that part happened." Emery needs a moment to compose himself.

"I kept going to Flack's room, I got into Flack's room, I didn't even think he (the shooter) saw me, at that time. I got in there and his kids were all up against the wall by his office. I remember shutting off the lights when I went through the door. He's the reason why I'm here. He threw his door open for me."

Emery instructed Mr. Flack to get his kids into the storeroom in his office and to get down on the floor as low as possible. He told them 'If you need lights, use the screen off your cell phone because if he gets in we need to be able to hide where he can't see us as easy.' After I got the kids in there I went back out into the classroom where I could watch out the door. That's when I saw the shooter come up to Candelaria's door, room 902, and started shooting through there. That's when he went in, and thank God for the sub being in there. She did the same thing, she threw those kids in that closet and blocked the door with a couch. Thank God for her on that part. That's my hero."

I have to pause at this point and make sure I heard him correctly. Emery Hill, OUR hero, has a hero in all this? The answer is yes. He has two actually. Mr. Flack for throwing open his door for Emery to enter and Ms. Potter because she saved the lives of 17 of his kids.

As we continue he recalls, "I remember hearing shots, a lot of them from that room after he went in there. I could hear something but I couldn't hear what. It sounded like yelling but the adrenaline was rushing so much I couldn't make out what he was saying. Then I watched him come out of Candelaria's room and he got where I couldn't see him. He started shooting more and I could tell from the shots he was getting farther down the hall and he was going across the catwalk. I was trying to keep in contact a little bit but when I went into Flack's room I shut off my radio so that if they had to talk over the radio he wouldn't hear us. I turned it on when I came back out in the hallway. I remember, I looked at Casey before I got to the intersection of the catwalk and I was wanting to go check on her but I was still hearing shooting. All of a sudden there were three shots real close together, boom boom boom, then a couple seconds later there was one, and then it went quiet, so I popped my head around the corner, just a quick glance at first, then I saw somebody laying in the hallway over in the 500 side."

I was like shoot, he must have went down the stairwells or something so I jumped over to where Casey was at and that's when I noticed the boy, Paco, in the bathroom. They were six feet apart if the wall hadn't been there. I checked for a pulse on both of them." At this point Emery is visibly shaken. He bows his head, takes a few deep breaths and a long pause. He has more to add but shakes his head no.

 

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