How 3 teachers responded to gunfire to save a life
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Before paramedics or police arrived at the scene of the shooting outside an Alabama high school Wednesday, three teachers combined their efforts to save a girl struck by the bullet.
School at had just ended at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery. The bell had rung. Teachers Angela Washington and Felix Tyree were in Room 335 on the third floor. Washington was thinking about going home to see her daughter. Tyree was looking forward to watching basketball at home.
Then the shots rang out from just outside the school.
Tyree looked out the open window and saw students “scattering around.” He took off downstairs. Washington followed.
“I looked out the window and saw the young girl,” Washington said the day after the shooting. “He ended up running down because he saw her on the ground. I looked out and heard her friend say, ‘She’s down,’ and I just ran down there and tried to do the best I can to save her. There was nothing to think about. It’s just something you spontaneously do if it’s anybody down on the street.”
Already outside was Scott King, a teacher and former firefighter. He was near the fence talking to a security guard when he heard the crack of the .40-caliber pistol.
“I heard shots, and I’m like, ‘No way,’” King said. “I turn around and see a young man in the field firing off shots. It seemed so surreal. Then I heard a young lady say somebody was shot. So I turned around and ran to that young lady.”
King found the girl first and immediately put his medical training to use. She had been shot in the neck. He checked her breathing. Tyree came over to help, followed by Washington.
“I just had to react,” Tyree said. “We all reacted. Thank God we were able to be there.”
Tyree had been involved in a similar situation when a student at Wetumpka Junior High School stabbed another with scissors. He knew he had to talk to the girl and keep her calm.
“Those feelings came back. Those emotions came back,” Tyree said.
King asked for something to stop the bleeding. Washington literally gave him the shirt off her back. King pressed it to the wound.
“I responded swiftly and did what I had to do,” King said. “I had exceptional people here to help me.”
None of the three could recall exactly how long that moment lasted, but then the rest of the world caught up to them. Principal Lorenza Pharrams checked on the group. The school was put on lockdown. Police arrived and arrested a 16-year-old suspect.
King kept his fingers on the girl’s wounds until the medics had her stable. She was eventually flown to Birmingham Children’s Hospital in critical but stable condition.
While she was bleeding on the ground outside her school, however, King said she was “cool as a cucumber.”
“We had a great conversation. She talked about what she’s going to do for spring break and showed so much resilience throughout the whole situation,” King said.
It was a situation every teacher must be prepared for but never wants to endure. Washington went home and spoke to her daughter, but the conversation was much different than it would have been.
“It was more consoling. She was there for me,” Washington said.
Tyree watched basketball but said it was more to decompress than anything. He also cried.
King moved to Wetumpka in October after being a firefighter in Columbus. He said he became a teacher so he could have an impact on kids’ lives. He, Tyree and Washington fulfilled that goal in the most important way possible Wednesday.
“I told my wife that I was supposed to be here and I was supposed to do what I did yesterday, but it’s not about me. I’m a servant and that’s what I do everyday,” King said.