“Shooter, Shooter! There’s a shooter!”
That was the first thing Saugus High 10th-grader Nathan Ephren remembers hearing while he walked onto campus Thursday morning. Then he heard shots ring out, echoing through the concrete structures and tunnels around the quad.
“I was heading to school and I was just walking inside — I was heading to the basketball court where me and my friends usually hang out — and the next thing I heard was gunshots,” said Ephren. “Someone was just yelling, ‘Shooter, Shooter.’”
Without thinking, he and his friends turned and ran.
Soon after, he and a handful of friends made it to Central Park where they sought refuge, and Ephren’s first concern was where his sister was. “‘She has first period, and I don’t,’” Ephren recalled thinking to himself.
“She was fine, but she was really sad because she was 10 feet away from the shooting,” said Ephren, talking about a phone call he had with his sister as he ran to Central Park. “I kept calling her to make sure she was safe.”
Over the phone, his freshman sister told him she’d meet him at Central Park.
They were eventually reunited, but because of her proximity to the shooting, Ephren’s sister was taken to Grace Baptist church nearby for immediate counseling and interviewing.
While his parents sat next to one another on an outside patio at Grace Baptist, talking with family over their phones, Ephren shot a basketball on a hoop on the church campus.
“I never thought this would happen at our school,” he said, as he put down the basketball.
Saugus 10th-grader Max Gamel said he was putting away his golf clubs near the quad, when he heard what he thought was a plastic bag popping.
“All I heard was the first shot, and usually people pop a bag or something, and everybody didn’t think much of it,” said Gamel. “And then a bunch of shots happened in succession.”
“We heard screaming, and instinctively, we told everyone to get down,” said Anthony Matic, 17. “I was just worried that the shooter might come to our classroom, and we might have to do something about it.”
As kids either ran out of the school or were escorted out, others stayed inside of their classrooms, hiding under or behind whatever furniture they could find.
“I was in my (Economics) class and we saw some people running outside,” said Justin Khoo, 17. “We barricaded the doors, stayed there and waited for police to come.”
Khoo said he and his classmates had trained for a lockdown. They learned, from the moment they stepped on Saugus’s campus as freshmen to turn off the lights, lock the doors, block the windows and sit in the middle of the classroom, in silence.
“It made us feel more safe … more secure.”
After waiting for a bit, Matic’s class eventually saw a sheriff’s deputy standing in the door. They were told to get in line and walk out. They would walk or ride a school bus a little over a mile before reaching Central Park where they could be reunited with their parents.
Before the kids could be discharged to their parents, they would have to be checked in by school staff and law enforcement officials and given a short interview. The lines stretched out over the Central Park soccer fields.
“It’s totally black, all you want to do is get to the school,” said Matic’s mom, Ad Madolin. “It’s the scariest text message I’ve ever gotten.”
Lans Carstensen, a father of a senior and freshman at Saugus, said his son was able to get over to a friend’s house because he was about to be dropped off for second period. His daughter, who was in choir at the time, was sending her dad texts about how she was scared, but alright.
“It’s horrible, its incomprehensible,” said Carstensen, as he stood on his tip-toes trying to see over the crowd, trying to spot his daughter. “It’s going to be good to see her.”