Tuesday, May 7, a terrorizing and tragic event happened at my son's school – another school shooting. This is a day I will never forget and there are things Ethan and I saw that we will never be able to un-see. These are events are the best of our recollection and according to my cell phone time stamps.

2:00 p.m. I left my house and began my normal drive to school to pick up my son. I had a great day with my Highlands Ranch chapter of wonderful SHE ladies. I was looking forward to seeing my son and we had a great afternoon planned.

2:06 p.m. I was near Kipling and Chatfield when I saw a police car racing down Kipling and getting on C470. Initially, I thought that maybe there was an accident on C470 and hoped there would be no traffic. As I was on the entrance ramp to get on C470, I saw another police car race down C470. Again, I thought maybe there was a bad accident ahead.

2:11 p.m. I was about a mile and a half before the Lucent Blvd. exit when my mother-in-law called me. She told me that the news was telling people to avoid the area around STEM School Highlands Ranch.  She told me to call my husband. I did. Eric looked up the news on his computer at work. At first, he said he couldn't find anything, but then I heard a horrifying gasp and the words “there was a shooting at the school”. I was driving and freaking out.  He and I were frantic and trying to get our composure. He said, "I am leaving now." I called my mother-in-law back and told her what was happening.  My call-waiting beeped and it was Chris McDowell at New American Funding where we had our Highlands Ranch meeting that morning. She called to tell me what was going on, as she could see things out her office building...so many police cars and first responders. I remember going a bit crazy on the phone saying, "Oh my God, what has happened, oh my God, oh my God." And then at times just praying out loud. I don't even remember how our conversation ended. But, next I remember being detoured by police a block before I would normally turn into the school block.

2:19 p.m. I turned and parked on a side street a block and a half from the high school side of the building. I was on my phone again with my mother-in-law. She told me not to get out of the car and stay safe. I couldn’t stay in my car. I got out like every other parent who had heard the news and could get there as quickly as possible. I hung up with her telling her that I was going to try to find out if Ethan was Ok. Streets in every direction were filled with the flashing lights of the initial dozens of first responders. It was terrifying. Parents all concerned, some hysterical like me, were gathering as close to the high school side of the building as possible. I heard someone say there was a shooting in the middle school (where my son goes). I screamed and dropped to my knees crying.  I tried to get my composure. I stood back up and I remember a hug from a woman whose child was in the elementary part of the building. Then someone said they heard there were 4 shooters. Again, a moment of hysteria overcame me. I bent over as I thought I would be sick. Later we heard it was three shooters and finally two shooters. I remember a police officer coming over to us and telling us we would need to go to the Northridge Recreation Center about a mile down the road to be reunited with our children when they clear the school and bus them there.

2:23 p.m. A close, personal friend called me and said she was in the area. She asked if I wanted her to come be with me. I said “yes” and told her where I was. I asked her to call me when she was in the neighborhood.

2:24 p.m. My husband called me while on the road. I told him what I knew. We were crying. We agreed to meet at the Northridge Recreation Center. I told him to drive safe and we told each other we loved each other. I was still not able to leave the scene and was waiting for my friend to show up. I was still trying to get information. I called the mom of one of my son’s friends. She told me her son was safe. She told me her son was in study hall in the cafeteria when they heard shots. A high school student who was shot in the shoulder was running out to the exit through the cafeteria and shouted out that there was a shooter and get out of the building. Her son ran out of the building and away from the school and called her to come get him. We exchanged a few more words and agreed we needed to pray for all those involved. I remember talking to other parents, all of us hugging and trying to console each other. I saw a swat team member dressed in camo with a rifle walking past us. I saw a sniper on a roof top. At some point I remember seeing high school students coming out with their hands in the air. At first, I thought it was the shooters, but it was actually students who were exiting the building to safety. The looks on their faces were of fear and sadness. I was still crying and I don’t remember much more. During this time, two more SHE members, Suzanne Mitchell with Zamar Screen Printing and Amanda Cromar with COMtuity called me.

2:33 p.m. My husband called me to see if I knew anything more. I told him the additional information I had just found out about our son’s friend. We tried to comfort one another and then hung up so I could try to find out more information.

2:38 p.m. My phone rang and a number appeared that I did not know. I answered and the woman on the phone identified herself as one of Ethan’s teachers. She told me she had Ethan and he was safe with her. I thought she said that the shooter had been in the room next to Ethan’s classroom. I began crying and could only think to ask if she and Ethan were OK. She told me that Ethan was upset and wanted her to call me, so that I knew he was OK. I thanked her and we hung up.

2:40 p.m. I called my husband to tell him Ethan was safe. At this point we still have not heard if the shooters were apprehended, but I had heard the initial number of four shooters had come down to three shooters. I hung up with my husband and I called my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and the mother of my son’s friend to tell them what I had found out.

2:44 p.m. My close friend called me and told me where she was parked. She heard on the radio that we needed to go to the recreation center. I told her what I knew and said I would meet her where she was at, which was several blocks away. I walked to my vehicle and 9News was there and I asked what they knew. I was still hysterical. The reporter gave me a hug and comforted me. He told me that I probably knew more than he did. He asked to interview me and to just let them know what I had heard. Strangely, that calmed me down for the moment.

2:51 p.m. My friend called to see where I was and I told her 9News interviewed me. I got in my vehicle and drove to meet my friend several blocks away. She told me that she had heard the shooters had been apprehended. I was shaking and crying. She drove me to the recreation center to meet up with my husband. We only had about a mile to drive, but it took about 25 minutes to get there, because of traffic in the area.

3:18 p.m. My friend dropped me off in front of the recreation center and I called my husband to find out where he was. News crews were everywhere and parents were swarming into the recreation center. My husband told me he was in the entrance of the back side of the building. We hung up and I found him. We just held each other, hugging and crying. We walked in where staff and volunteers directed us to the lower level gymnasium. Hundreds of us were packed in there like sardines, but we didn’t care, we only cared about everyone’s safety. Volunteers came around providing bottled water and tissue. Later, a law enforcement officer announced how we needed to go to different sections of the gymnasium, based on our last names. We went to the A-G section of the gymnasium. Volunteers came around with something called a “reunification” form. It had instructions and information we had to fill out. At some point, a fellow SHE Member, Beth Bogan of Ace Chat appeared and we hugged and cried. Her child also goes to the same school. We talked and waited and waited. This entire time, our phones were blowing up with wonderful friends who were checking in on us. The support was amazing. Fellow SHE members who knew we had kids at this school were checking in with us. The texts from everyone was a great distraction and helped pass the time. Thank you all! Finally, the law enforcement officer came to tell us the first bus load of students had arrived. He read out about 7 student names and told those parents to come to a particular room of the recreation center. Later he came back and asked for all the Kindergarten parents to come to a particular room, and slow but sure parents of grades 1-12 were called, one grade level by one grade level, to reunite with their children in various rooms and areas of the rec center. We believe the first names that were called were victims names, since it was done by name and not grade.

4:49 p.m. Another one of the school staff members texted me to tell me that Ethan was with her and they were in the building.

5:17 p.m. Our son’s grade was called. We were directed where to go. We still had more waiting, but now my husband and I knew we were close to seeing Ethan.

5:45 p.m. The waiting was over. We were reunited with Ethan. What a sight to see him safe. It took probably another 5 minutes to check out with our photo ID and reunification forms. Ethan was a bit agitated and he did not want to admit this was a big of a deal as it was. We let him be him. He was upset by all the TV cameras that were set up outside, as we all had to walk by them as we exited down the street of the recreation center. He didn’t want to talk much. We walked several blocks to get to my husband’s car where he had parked in a church parking lot. He drove me back to my car where I had met my friend. Ethan chose to drive home with his dad, where he did open up about some things he saw and heard.

6:20 p.m. We arrived home. Ethan’s Grammy was waiting, along with the neighbors (who is a pastor at our church) who had dinner in hand for us. Pastor Ken prayed with us as we hugged in a circle in the front yard. Eric, Ethan, Grammy and I went inside and started to decompress.

That evening and since: Ethan has started to share details and we have gone to an event where we reunited with teachers and other students. Ethan did a map drawing of his classroom and the hallway where the event took place. His drawing explained to us where SWAT and police came in the side door right next to his classroom. Ethan heard shots and screams in the classroom directly across the hall from him. As Ethan's teacher told my husband in a melancholy manner, those students heard a fellow student die. In the classroom of the shooting, three students were determined to stop the shooter. One student, Kendrick Castillo, paid the ultimate price to protect the other students. Kendrick died. Reports stated that he was the first student to lunge and disarm the shooter. Two others participated in taking the shooter down with another student shot. We were told that some of the bullets flew across the hallway into the classroom directly to the other side of Ethan's and one student in that classroom sustained an injury. Thank God the shooter didn't shoot into Ethan's classroom. We asked Ethan what his teacher did when they heard the shots. His teacher calmly closed and locked the door, the alarm went off and Ethan said all the kids knew to get under the desks. Ethan said that the boy he was under a desk with was scared, so Ethan offered him a piece of gum. His teacher told us when the police rushed into their room they said something like, "We're here to protect you". Then with hands above their heads, they were escorted through the bloody hallway outside to safety. The teacher who called me said she was hugging a second grader who was crying when Ethan came up to her side and said, "Would you call my mom and let her know I am OK?" 

We are getting little bits of information from Ethan, but he is still a bit in denial. When he starts to think about it long enough to realize what really happened, he gets angry. As with many families who are having to go through this, we have counseling set up for Ethan.

I read articles and watched the news all day Wednesday. I cried at times. I woke up at 3 a.m. the first night and cried. It will be a process to get past this. For now, we are just getting through this day-by-day. We are so grateful for all the support from our neighbors, friends, family, Eric’s work, and the wonderful women of SHE Leads Group. We are especially grateful for the staff of STEM School Highlands Ranch, the heroism of the high school students, and the fast response time of the first responders, all of whom saved many lives by their quick actions. And, to the Senior, Kendrick Castillo, who lost his life for being the first student who lunged at the gunman to protect his fellow students, we are forever grateful and are so sorrowful for his family’s loss.

About the author

Beth Boen, Founder of SHE Leads Group

Beth Boen has more than 30 years of experience in sales, marketing and customer service. She is an award-winning marketer. She is also a professional trainer and customer experience consultant. Beth loves helping people build long-term, loyal relationships that produce quality connections in their business that lead to lifetime customers and endless referrals. Beth helps people do this through her thoughtful blogs and training curriculum. Members of SHE Leads Group have access to more in-depth business development training through presentations at meetings from Beth, her curriculum, and guest trainers. In addition to being the Founder of SHE Leads Group, Beth has had a training and consulting business, The Voice Customer Experience, that she started in 2005.

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