Talon News - Good Local News

By Jessica Selph



December 15, 2017

Debbie Israel

A makeshift memorial has been created at the high school

The morning of December 7th was a rough one at the Minton household. High school freshman, Sammy, and his mom, Christa, were having a tiff. They were going to be late, someone pulled an attitude and by the time Christa dropped him off at school she was officially bugged. But it wouldn't be long before none of that matterede.

Sammy reported to first hour in room 902, just like every other day. He recalls, "We got on the computers and then it was probably about 10 minutes into class when Paco went to the restroom. And then like, not even a minute later we heard gunshots and our sub (Mrs. Potter) went outside. We heard someone (Emery Hill) yelling, 'Who are you? What are you doing?'" Potter came back into the classroom, pressed herself against the door for protection, then moved the students into the classroom office where they barricaded themselves in with a couch against the door.

"We heard more gunshots a little bit down the hallway, then he (the shooter) came into our room and started shooting up everything, he reloaded and said, 'I know you're in there' and he shot into the room where we were," Sammy said. Yes, bullets went through the office walls, coming within inches of the kids huddled behind their blockade Sammy recalled.

There were 17 students in that class Thursday morning, Paco left for the restroom and never returned, leaving 16 students and one teacher hunkered in a cramped office, afraid for their lives. "It was extremely quiet for a while," Sammy recalls. "I called my mom and told her to call 911. It felt like a year we were in there because it was so scary but it was probably only like two or three minutes." APD officers arrived on scene, rushing to the aid of the kids. "They told us we were safe. We had to put our hands on our heads with our fingers interlocking. First, they searched us and then we walked down the hall and we had to put our hands on each other's shoulders, we couldn't grab our phones or anything. They searched us again and then took us into the gym where we just had to wait."

Sammy's older sister Janessa, a junior at AHS, had ridden to school with her best friend that morning and arrived a little bit late, two minutes to be exact. Her classroom was farther away from the soon-to-be chaos. "We had just sat down and started to do our daily work," she begins, "and then all of a sudden Ms. Shea comes on the intercom and she just said shelter in place at first and then like two seconds later, I think, she comes back on and was like, 'This is a lockdown, this is not a drill. I repeat, this is a lockdown' and her voice kind of broke so we all knew that it was serious. We got to the corner of the classroom but we told our teacher we needed to be in the closet. We were all standing in the closet and our teacher grabbed a golf club, because she's the golf instructor. I texted Sammy because by then we were getting weird random rumors. I got to that point that I was so stressed that I was just calm. I don't know what would have happened if I wasn't able to text him."

The two got to see each other about an hour later after Janessa's class had been safely escorted to the school's gym. "I went and found her right away," Sammy said. "They told us to stay with our class but I just left to see her."

Heavy stuff isn't it? Can you imagine what these kids went through? Their minds must have been racing, their bodies shaking. Their fight or flight responses raging yet nowhere to run. A recent article of mine tells of a parent's greatest fear becoming a reality, but what of the student's fears? I'm sure the thought of a school shooting had crossed their minds at some point, as they seem to be a crime trend in America. The day those fears were realized will forever be seared into the minds of every student attending Aztec High School in the year 2017.

What from here? Parents have had to explain these awful events in the gentlest ways possible to children of all ages. Brothers, sisters, cousins and friends attending other schools sat, anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones.

Every student experienced this tragedy in their own unique way, each one equally traumatic to the senses. High school freshman Hallie Armstrong, who was in the 900 building during the shooting, describes it like this. "At first we just heard this loud banging that we didn't think much of. Then we heard the drill and we knew it wasn't okay. We all located in the back of the room. He was banging on our door trying to get in and it was really loud and it sounded like he was really angry. And then it stopped for a second and he came back and he started banging on the glass on the door and it sounded like he was really close to getting in. Everyone was really worried. It's kind of horrific because the sounds, all the banging and shooting, just keep replaying in my head. It's really hard to process. I just never thought it would happen in small town Aztec."

The same sentiments were felt by student Austin Schaubb, who was removed from the chaos but still greatly affected. He says, "I was shook afterwards. It's hard to believe, you just wanna deny it sometimes. And I didn't really know either of them that well, but like, it still hits our community and hits our school and hits all of the students and teachers very heavily."

So many of us are in the same boat as Austin. We didn't know either of them that well, if at all, but these events have rocked our little town of Aztec to the core. We still grapple with our new reality, realizing that we will never be the same. We entirely grieve the loss of Casey and Paco, two innocent lives taken unfairly, yet we marvel at the miracles that kept others safe. We curse the world for harboring such evil yet rejoice with our brothers and sisters that have rushed to our aid. For now, all we can do is take this one day at a time. I hope for a day when schools are safe and tragedy is far away. Unfortunately, today is not that day but until that day comes, we will not only survive, we will thrive. We are #AZTECSTRONG.


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