Witnessing a School Shooting
On the morning of September 13, in the farming town of Rockford, Washington, 15-year-old Caleb Sharpe strode into the second-floor hallway of Freeman High School, drew an AR-15 rifle from a black duffel bag, and turned it on his classmates. When his gun jammed, he produced another: a handgun. His sophomore classmate Sam Strahan approached him, trying to intervene. Sharpe shot him in the chest and face, killing him. Three girls were wounded. Sharpe would later plead not guilty to a range of charges, including first-degree murder.
It was a shooting that made few headlines beyond the Northwest and faded into a backdrop of the more than 40 mass shootings that have occurred across the U.S. since then, including the one in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and 546 wounded and the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. But people in Rockford still remember. Hay bales are carefully arranged in fields spelling out FREEMAN STRONG, a new rallying cry throughout the town.
A month after the shooting, three freshmen who were there — 15-year-old Caiden Hansen and 14-year-olds Paige Allen and Natalie Dryden — reflected on the events of that day and how their lives, and the town, have changed.