Saugus High shooting: Parents of survivor encourage others to seek counseling

Law enforcement and firefighters search the campus for additional students who might be hiding after a fatal shooting at Saugus High School on Nov. 14, 2019. Tammy Murga/ The Signal

When parents Thomas and Brenda Lindsey saw their 16-year-old son duck and cover after hearing a cannon blast during a Disneyland ride last week, they knew it was time to seek help. 

“My husband grabbed him and covered his ears. We first saw him cry and that made us all cry,” said Brenda, a mother of three. “We knew we had to get him help so we started to make phone calls.”

Former cross-country runner Grant was one of a handful of students who witnessed firsthand their peer, 16-year-old Nathan Berhow, pull out a gun and shoot at students. Grant and others fled the fatal scene and sheltered inside a stranger’s home outside of Saugus High School.

On Nov. 14, the attacker fatally shot two teenagers and injured three more in the quad area of the campus before turning the 45-caliber “kit gun” on himself. The incident lasted 16 seconds. 

Those more than half-dozen seconds, however, left Grant and other Centurions with emotional scars, his parents said. 

“My son is a very level-tempered kind of person; he’s very quiet,” said Thomas, a Saugus High alumni. 

But that wasn’t the case last Thursday. 

“The sound of his voice, I’ll never get that out of my head. It was pure fear,” said his mother. 

Grant, who had been hanging out with a group of friends in the quad, was only about 15 feet away from the shooter. After hearing and seeing the bloody scene develop before their eyes, the teenagers ran outside school grounds and into an older couple’s home who sheltered them. At least 20 other students hid with Grant, according to the Lindseys. 

“And that’s when he called me and he was out of breath,” said Brenda. “He said, ‘I’m OK but there’s an active shooter and we’re in someone’s house and we don’t know who it is.’ My husband and I merged our call with Grant and we’re on the phone with him for 30 minutes while my husband got to him. He was still breathing heavily.” 

Though shaken up at first, the calm and quiet Grant broke down following the “loud bang” during their family trip to Disneyland. That prompted the family to seek local counseling for him. 

“This was traumatic for EVERYONE. My son seemed to be handling things well until he heard a loud bang. He ducked and covered and then started to cry…we all cried. (Post-traumatic stress disorder) is a real thing,” Thomas wrote in a Facebook post.

They’re now encouraging other parents of survivors of the Saugus High shooting to pay attention to the signs and learn about the resources available to heal from trauma and loss. 

“We just started (therapy) with him yesterday and it made us realize that we may all need it, too,” said Brenda. “It’s important to seek help, whether they were there on campus or in a classroom or not at all. I’m happy he wanted to get his backpack on Tuesday and go back on Wednesday. I think he wants to move past this.” 

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