Saugus High Shooting: Survivors say ‘We were all ready to fight’

Balloons and flowers stand in front of Saugus High School which was still closed for investigation on Friday, November 15, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

On Sept. 27, Saugus High’s Saugus News Network aired a student video about what to do in case of a school shooting to all 2,000 students. 

The brief broadcast showed some Centurions practicing an active shooter drill on campus while offering tips such as “run,” “leave your belongings,” “climb fences” or “hide.” 

On the morning of Thursday, Nov. 14, the experience became all too real.

“As I ran, I just remember seeing paper and backpacks and cellphones all over the ground because people were running as fast as they could and they would leave their stuff behind,” said Hayden Trowbridge, a 17-year-old Saugus High senior. 

Just before the start of second period, a 16-year-old boy opened fire on the campus’ quad, killing two students and injuring three others. The shooter then pointed the gun on himself and fired. He succumbed to his injuries Friday at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. 

Trowbridge was in class not far from the quad Thursday, when he heard a big bang, followed by three more, prompting him to gear into action.

“I heard three more shots and I told my teacher to lock the door immediately and told the class to get away from the wall, and my friend started stacking chairs to block the entrance. I had run the scenario over my head so many times before so I was prepared.”  

The 17-year-old, who credited his father for instilling in him at a young age to be aware of his surroundings, said he “took a book and put it inside my jacket to stop bullets and protect my organs. I was prepared to save about 30 lives in my classroom.”

Over in a video-production room for Saugus News Network, 16-year-old Derek Diaz said he and about 20 other classmates hid in a props closet, each holding tripods and camera stands as weapons.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies escort evacuated Saugus High School students onto school buses after a fellow student opened fire on campus Thursday morning. November 14, 2019. Bobby Block / The Signal.

“Everyone had something in their hands if a situation came where the shooter would come in. We were all ready to fight,” he said. 

At another building, 17-year-old Amanda Davis found out about the incident after a student announced to her class and several others about an active shooter on campus.

“I was shaking and was nervous and I was holding hands with my friends; we were praying,” she said. “We put desks in front of the doors and my teacher locked the door and was with the kids that were having a really hard time.

“I thought, at the time, I need to do what we were trained to do because we had had active shooter drills. Then when it was time to run out, I saw the bodies on the gurneys, and that scared me.” 

Fear did not only roam within the perimeters of Saugus High. Zachary Morgan, 16, was on his way to school when his girlfriend warned him without explanation to turn back and avoid campus.

“When I found out why I turned around and went home,” he said. “It’s so surreal that something you’d see on the news would happen so close to home — it is home.” 

The four teens, who eventually reunited with their parents after evacuating campus, said Saugus High is a place they had always felt safe, despite previous threats.

“We have a deputy that is always on campus, sometimes he gets there in the mornings and other times in the afternoon,” said Davis. “When he’s there, I do feel safer, and the drills I think really helped us.” 

While they and several others survived the frightening situation, trauma is something they said is very present. 

“I was at the Grace Baptist vigil (Thursday night) and my friend told me, ‘We shouldn’t be here; we should be at home doing homework,’” said Morgan. “I feel like the biggest help to me is going to come through being around people that went through the same thing and being able to know that I can open up to them because they know exactly what I’m feeling.” 

A vigil to remember and support the victims of the shooting is scheduled Sunday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. at Central Park, located at 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road.

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