Children burst into tears in sixth-grader Nate Holley’s classroom as gunfire erupted Tuesday.
“It was really chaotic,” the suburban Denver 12-year-old said. “Most of the kids didn’t know what to do.”
Nate froze as more gunshots rang out.
A siren rang and someone cracked a joke.
His teacher shushed the students and moved them behind a desk and then to the closet.
“I had my hand on a metal baseball bat just in case,” Nate told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. “‘Cause I was gonna go down fighting if I was gonna go down.”
Nate’s wrenching account of the deadly shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch is a reminder of what it’s like to be a child in the United States in the age of school shootings.
Authorities believe two students, a male and a female, used a pair of handguns to open fire in two classrooms Tuesday. Senior Kendrick Castillo died lunging at one of the shooters. Eight other students were shot but survived.
Now, a community all too familiar with mass shootings is wavering between grief and gratitude over the fact that there weren’t more victims.
Nate’s father, Steve Holley, says the shooting marked the third time in his life that he had to pick up his children from school due to a lockdown or lockout because of a shooting or a threat of an emergency.
But it was the first in which his own child was a direct witness — and survivor — to such a tragedy.
“It feels like this just — for whatever reason — continues to happen out here,” he said.
“Enough is enough. We need to make a change and we need to do something or else we’re just going to continue failing our kids.”