As we attempted to enter the security gate, we found it was blocked by a crowd and cars in line trying to get in. They were being kept off the college grounds by JBG security.
The cars were moving slowly with most of them making a U turn and leaving. The crowd of media trucks was lining both sides of the road with cameras rolling and reporters with microphones peering into each car and trying to get interviews.
As I slowly moved the car forward waiting for those ahead to be directed through or turned around it was easy to see that Dan had made appropriate command decisions.
The security checkpoint that was normally staffed by one person on a normal day was staffed by three wearing the green reflective safety vest that was required by a new federal law for individuals working within 50 feet of a roadway. Even the state police were wearing them on traffic stops.
The winter version was like a flannel-lined bomber pilot’s weatherproof jacket. Of course we had to get them logoed for each college and the ‘Security’ emblem on them.
The damn things were almost 80 dollars each and that was the discounted price, because Marcy bought 300 of them. She had decided that they should be standard for anyone that worked on the runways at the airport. With the M&M additions we needed another 200.
I stopped the car and stepped out to give them moral reinforcement for their professionalism in dealing with this unruly group. No group can be more unruly than reporters trying to break a story and this group was no different. I motioned the three of them together to do that.
I was greeted with, “Hi Boss, glad you are here – we can use the help. They are running Dan ragged back there.”
Back there is where I drove the car with us in. I drove as close as I could. The place was packed with police cars and there were still several ambulances there along with two cars marked ‘County Medical Examiner’.
With laptop in hand, we pushed the yellow do not cross tape down and made our way through the maze to where there was a large group going thru the motions of a reenactment.
We were immediately met by a DHS agent. He said, ‘Special agent George Payne at your service.”
“Eric speaks highly of your organization. He said you were on your way,” agent Payne replied.
“I need an update on the students and my people,” I replied.
“There are six students who were hit by bullets, two are serious but not life threatening, the other four are minor, most likely they will be treated and released,” he replied.
“I need names so we can notify families and get them transportation to be with their children,” I answered.
“Dan has the list, he can go get you the information for you – we have finished with him. Eric said that would be the first thing you wanted,” agent Payne replied.
I sent Dan to get the contact information so I could make the calls; it was another job that would ruin my day.
Before he left Dan said, “None of our employees are hurt, Artie and Sam both have some scratches and abrasions. They had to surrender their guns for testing.”
“Agent Payne, have you secured their van and checked it for explosives?” I asked.
“Van, what van? We have not gotten that far yet,” he replied.
“It is in the public parking lot over there,” I said as I opened the laptop and played the video for him.
There was a mad rush by a dozen agents and police to secure it and move the media vehicles that had unknowingly parked around it.
Bomb sniffing dogs and special equipment were called in to inspect the van.
I went to talk to Artie and Sam while all that was going on. They were shaken by today’s act of domestic terrorism. I told them how great a job they had done, that no students had died. I said that they had saved many lives today and had every reason to be proud of the job they had done. We were very thankful and appreciative of the way they handled the situation.
I was still talking to them when Dan returned with the contact information. I updated the list to be sure I had the correct names for the two seriously injured students.
I asked Dan “Has anyone from the college, HR, the board of directors or the Administration made contact with you?”
“No, not a word and they are not answering any of the numbers I have,” he replied.
The thoughts that came into my head were not kind to administrators. Those people at the security gate were parents and relatives wanting to know if their children were safe. They deserved answers in a timely fashion.
I sought out Agent Payne and the senior state police officer and asked them the same question ending with the same answer, “No contact from them.”
Agent Payne sent an announcement to the media that a news conference would be held in an hour. We both agreed that the parents of those injured should be notified first.
I had the information and went to make the calls. I first started with the least injured and went from there. The first four were easy, flesh wounds treated and to be released today. They were local students; the parents were going to drive to Metropolitan Hospital and would be there in no time.
The last two were not so easy. Sonny Chambers, age 20 was from Dawsonville, Georgia here at Warrington on an athletic scholarship. He played on the football and baseball teams.
He was the defensive captain on the Warrington’s championship Bulldogs and was going to miss the final game this weekend, and more than likely any bowl games. He had taken three bullets in the thighs, one of them grazing the bone.
It hit me that Dawsonville, Georgia was home to Nascar Champion Bill Elliott and his son Chase was last season’s Infinity Series Champion and was to replace Jeff Gordon in the ‘24’ car next year. Damn, what a coincidence.
The other student was Shannon Gibson, star player on the girls’ basketball and softball teams. She and Sonny were dating and a couple from the water cooler talk, Dan had said. They were walking together towards the main entrance. She, like Sonny, had taken several rounds in the thighs.
The fact that both of them and the other students was all shot low flagged that the shooters had no formal training; possibly they fit into the lone wolf category. At least it looked like that to me.
With that style weapon for a novice you simply started at the ground and let the gun rise as it was firing to kill your victim. The fact that all the injured were hit in the legs meant that they were swinging the guns left and right – and fast at that – and they were putting plenty effort into keeping them at that level.
Someone had impressed upon them that an AK would rise and take the shooters own head off if you didn’t keep it held down hard. With the field version that I saw on the ground at the scene, it was not true.
“Is this Mr. Chambers?”
“Yes, this is Bob Chambers.”
“Do you have a son named Sonny at Warrington College?” I asked.
“Yes, are you calling about the shooting there?” he asked.
“My name is Roberta Jones – please call me BJ – I am from the security department. Yes, your son was injured in the shooting. He is in the hospital; his injuries are not life threatening. Are you able to travel to be with your son for a few days?” I asked.
“The wife and I cannot drive that far and I doubt the old truck will make it that far,” he replied.
“Do you think you can be at the Cherokee County Airport near Canton Georgia in an hour?” I asked. “We will have a plane pick you up so you can be with your son.”
“We don’t have that kind of money to pay for something like that. We will have to take the bus,” he replied.
Now I knew why Sonny – as talented as he was – ended up at Warrington on a scholarship. The family did not have the extra money to kick in funds for the higher end colleges. Sonny was hoping to prove himself on the field to get continued scholarships at Warrington or a step up to a bigger college and into the spotlight.
“The flights and motel are not going to cost you anything,” I replied.
We exchanged cell numbers and estimated time that the plane would be the county airport.
Then I moved on to Shannon’s parents. They lived in Cleveland, Tennessee.
“I am calling for Veronica Gibson, are you Veronica?” I asked.
“Yes, call me Verna,” she replied. “How may I help you?” she asked.
“My name is Roberta Jones – please call me BJ – I am from the security department at Warrington College, I am calling about Shannon,” I replied.
I did not get to say anything else; there was a scream and a breakdown and sobbing. A man picked up the phone.
“What the hell did you say to my wife?” he asked.
I started over again, “Shannon was hit by gunfire today; she is in the hospital. She will be there several days. It is not life threatening. If I send a plane to pick you up, can you stay a couple days to be with her?” I asked.
“Yes, of course! We have another daughter and a son; they will have to stay with friends,” he replied.
“No, that would not be right, bring them to be with Shannon,” I replied.
“It will be 2 or 2 ½ hours before the plane lands at Cleveland municipal airport,” I replied.
I got their cell numbers and sent Lorrie to go along on the flight, first to Georgia and then to Cleveland Tennessee.
Vicky called for motel rooms and Marcy called to set up the rental cars.
I went to join Agent Payne in front of the cameras but first there were some things I wanted to check out. There were questions I needed answers to, just to have peace of mind.
Edit by Alfmeister
proof read by Joe H.