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Column: A kid brought a gun to my cousin’s school. Here’s what happened next
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Column: A kid brought a gun to my cousin’s school. Here’s what happened next

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WEB ONLY - School Shooting Wisconsin

At left, Waukesha South High School students find their waiting parents and friends and hug after they leave the building following shots fired inside the school Monday morning. A suspect is in custody after a student allegedly pulled a handgun on a school resource officer, police said. Texting representation added by The Journal Times.

I was eating breakfast at a Panera Bread on Monday morning. Scrolling through Facebook, I saw that Waukesha South High School had gone into lockdown.

My first thought was: “It’s here.”

The U.S. has experienced more than 200 shootings at schools from the April 20, 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado and the end of 2018 — according to data from Everytown for Gun Safety — and more than 90 in 2019. The latter number is still growing.

The school shooting epidemic has reached Wisconsin. It’s the second time my family has avoided the violence directly: my sister was working at UCLA in June 2016 when a murder-suicide occurred on that campus.

I wasn’t thinking about 2016 Monday morning. I wasn’t thinking about Columbine or gun laws or the fast response time of the Waukesha Police Department. I was trying to remember which school my teenage cousin Chrissy goes to.

I remembered that Chrissy attends one of the Waukesha schools. Waukesha North? West? Not South. Please not South. Chrissy better not be dead.

I look up her name online — I’m too afraid to text or call her in case she’s hiding — and find her volleyball player profile.

She goes to Waukesha South. There’s a kid with a gun at my cousin’s school.

I call McKenna. She’s my older sister, smart and level-headed. She’ll have an idea of what to do.

McKenna doesn’t answer. I swear under my breath.

I text a couple coworkers for an update: I work at a newspaper, so we should get our reporting started.

Then I call my mom. No answer. Swear again. I’m now sitting in my car outside Panera.

Call Dad. He answers. I’m about to ruin his day.

“Hey, there were shots fired at Chrissy’s school today, Waukesha South,” I tell him, interrupting his golf round in Florida.

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I say: “It’s not that bad. It’s not like there’s 19 kids dead. Wow, that’s a horrible sentence.” I’m counting my family’s lucky stars that my youngest cousin wasn’t at another Columbine or Sandy Hook. “But one kid is injured; a cop may have shot the shooter but we don’t know much yet. What should we do?”

(We later learned a 17-year-old male student allegedly pulled a handgun on a school resource officer, but then the officer shot the teen and that that teen was the only person injured. That afternoon, another teen was apprehended after allegedly bringing a gun to Waukesha North High School across town.)

My dad takes a breath. “Okay, reach out to Chrissy and her sisters and her mom. Make sure she is OK. We’ll go from there. I’ll call Mom.” He’ll take care of getting in touch with Mom and Grandma and the rest of the family who should know.

We hang up. Text Chrissy, her older sisters and my aunt. Pray.

Texts on the day of a school shooting

Chrissy texts back a couple minutes later, nonchalant as she always is: “Yeah we are getting released soon”

Chrissy’s mom texts screenshots of the updates she’s getting from school.

We all tell each other we love each other.

I’m still sitting in my car trying not to have a panic attack. I thank God that my cousin is alive.

I start taking notes on my phone. I’m a reporter. This is all I know how to do. I can’t help my cousin or my family. All I can do is wait and pray and write.

McKenna calls back. I tell her what happened. Tell her I love her. I drive into work.

I’ve got work to do.

'A terrifying day': Student shot by officer after allegedly pulling gun at Waukesha South High

Adam Rogan writes about Caledonia and general assignments for The Journal Times.

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