Within minutes of the shooting, parents, school officials, police, politicians and students were talking. Here is a sampling of what they said:
Millard Superintendent Keith Lutz: “No matter what you do, how many times you go through this, nothing prepares you for it.”
* * *
Bronson Cordova, a 16-year-old junior, walked into a study hall when the code red alert was announced.
“I had a feeling it was really bad,” he said.
He sent his mom a text message at 12:57 p.m.: “Code red. If I don't make it out, I love you.”
She texted him: “Is there a shooting?”
Cordova texted back: “I don't know. They just said that this is a code red and not a drill.”
His mom replied: “Keep your head about you. Be calm and smart. Don't be afraid.”
* * *
“Someone was shot. I'm not dead. Don't worry,” Shelby Waldmann, a 16-year-old junior, texted to her mom, Barb Branham.
* * *
Robert Citro, a 15-year-old sophomore, had just grabbed his lunch tray.
“I just heard ‘pop, pop,' and a couple seconds later I heard three more pops,” he said.
Citro spun just in time to see the shooter running from the school's offices and out the nearby main door.
An administrator and a teacher rushed into the lunchroom, crammed with hundreds of students.
“(An administrator) was like, ‘I need your attention, we have a code red, everyone needs to go to the kitchen.”
Administrators moved students into the kitchen. Citro used his smart phone's police scanner application to listen to the mayhem that followed.
For the next 2½ hours, the students huddled in the cramped room.
“I had to step over people. People were laying on the floor.”
About an hour later, Citro said, another scare:
“All the teachers and lunch ladies come in saying, ‘Everybody get on the ground!'”
* * *
Sophomore Shelby Pleiss and her biology classmates sat, lights out, against a wall in silence from just before 1 p.m. until about 2:45 p.m.
“My teacher said we couldn't have our phones out, but a lot of us had our phones out to text our parents to let them know we were all right,” said Pleiss, 15.
At some point, an officer came to the door and asked if anyone was in there that shouldn't be.
“I'm all right, but still a little shaken up,” Pleiss said after being dismissed.
* * *
Hundreds of parents gathered in the parking lot of Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church, adjacent to school, to wait for their children.
Students were released by individual classroom and escorted out by officers.
Parents cheered when the first students streamed into the parking lot about 2:45 p.m. Moms and dads shouted out their children's names and waved to get their attention.
Parents cried with relief. Moms, dads and kids hugged.
* * *
“I told him I loved him,” said Amy Collins, who talked to her son, Aaron, a 17-year-old senior, by cell phone after the shooting. “You can't say that too often.”
* * *
Taylor Kopcho didn't cry until she saw her mom, Natalie.
The 16-year-old junior had spent the first day of Child Development class going over the semester's expectations. They watched a video on how infants learn and recognize their mothers' voices. Lunch was to come late, at 1:04 p.m.
Then, the slightly shaky voice of a school administrator over the loudspeaker: code red.
The students figured it was a drill. The teacher locked the door and killed the lights. Students huddled together in a far corner. Cell phones were turned off.
They sat there, silent, for more than an hour. Then came the announcement that a police officer would escort their classroom to safety. Kopcho turned her cell phone on. Her teacher opened a laptop.
Together they learned about the nightmare at their school.
Kopcho was scared. But she remained calm until 4:15 p.m., when she and her mom were reunited.
Said the teen: “I was so happy it was over.”
* * *
Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle: “We are a great city and, once again, we must bond together to get through this moment of tragedy.”
— Compiled by staff writer Erin Grace from World-Herald staff reports