It was every parent’s worst nightmare. A 14-year-old boy, armed with a gun, walked into a classroom at his school and threatened to shoot anyone who called for help.
A three-hour standoff ensued at the Philip Barbour high school in Philippi, West Virginia on Tuesday. For much of it, 29 teenagers and their teacher did not know if they would live or die.
Forty-five minutes passed before administrators at the school even became aware that a hostage situation was unfolding in a second-floor social studies class. Thus began a sequence of action that has become all too familiar for a nation besieged by gun violence and where schools are often a target: a 911 emergency call was placed and the school was quickly evacuated, as police responded and set up a barricade.
Through calm negotiations in the most tense of atmospheres, the young gunman was ultimately persuaded to release the hostages without injury – and prevented from taking his own life – by a combination of authorities, the teacher and his own pastor, who offered his assistance when informed of the boy’s identity