Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What is a true personal story that people have a hard time believing? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
I was caught in the middle of a school shooting. My step-brother tackled the shooter.
Thurston High School, May 1998. I was standing in the breezeway (outdoor, covered hallway) at a back entrance to the school when Kip Kinkel walked right past me and and my girlfriend, pulled out a .22 caliber rifle from his trenchcoat, and started shooting students. Kids ran away screaming in all directions. I remember it sounded a lot like popcorn popping. The hallway cleared out as Kip slipped into the cafeteria. We saw two kids lying on the ground 20 yards down the hallway or so, and we ran toward them to try to help. One was face down in a pool of blood. The other was face up with a bullet wound in his forehead. My girlfriend gasped and said “Oh no, is that Ben?” That’s about all the time we had before the sound of gunfire came from the cafeteria, again sounding like popcorn popping. We ran the opposite direction out of the school where several students were congregating.
The school was locked down, and we were herded into a classroom, where we stayed for an hour. We were eventually released and sent home for the day. My mom said she was worried sick because there were no details being released, and she didn’t know if I was safe.
Within an hour, news vans were lining the street in front of the school. The shooting was all over the national news.
Over time, I finally got the rest of the story. My friend Ryan was the kid lying face down in the pool of blood. He had been shot in the face, but survived. The other kid, Ben Walker, was an acquaintance of my girlfriend. He was one of two student casualties that day. Kip Kinkel had murdered his parents the day before, then drove their car to the school that morning. His dad was a teacher at the school in previous years, and my sister had taken classes from him.
Once Kip had entered the cafeteria, I remember I had enough time to look at the students in the hallway before he opened fire again. I’m not sure why he waited 10 seconds or so before shooting again. That always stuck out to me. He shot 23 more kids in the cafeteria, killing one, Mikael Nikolausen. My step-brother Adam, and 4 other boys eventually tackled him as he was trying to pull a pistol out of his coat.
The school was closed for several days. Once we came back, several students were in arm slings or on crutches due to their injuries.
I remember the phone ringing off the hook the day of the shooting. Every major news organization was calling us trying to setup interviews with Adam. I distinctly remember getting up at 3am one day shortly after the shooting, for a crew from NBC to setup a satellite link so my stepbrother Adam could be interviewed by Matt Lauer for the Today Show.
11 months later, Columbine happened. I was glued to my television set, and it felt like I was reliving everything all over again.