Students at Rancho Tehama Elementary return to school after mass shooting
RANCHO TEHAMA, Calif. - Monday, students at Rancho Tehama Elementary returned back to school for the first time since the mass shooting almost two weeks ago.
It was a more than warm welcome from over one hundred emergency personnel as they cheered while lining the front of the elementary school, giving out high fives and hugs to the students when they arrived.
Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said their top priority was to make the children feel safe as they returned to school.
Superintendent Rick Fitzpatrick said it's time to start the healing process and they all came together to help the students cope and get back on track.
"Part of the healing process is feeling welcome and feeling safe and we want to create that because our jobs as educators is to make our students feel safe and valued, so having them come back to a place where they know they feel safe and feel welcome is absolutely critical," said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick added that the support from the community has been incredible and said it's the best thing for the school.
Many parents were apprehensive to bring their kids back to school Monday, but appreciated the gesture by emergency personnel to help the students feel as comfortable as they did before the shooting.
One parent who said his family wasn't afraid to go back to school Monday was Jay Lobdell. Lobdell is the father of a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old, who both attend the elementary school, and he is married to the secretary who is being credited with saving many of the kids lives the day of the shooting.
Lobdell works at the only store and gas station in Rancho Tehama and said he was working the day of the shooting when he heard gunshots. His wife, Sara, heard those same gunshots from the school and he said that's when she had the gut feeling that the gunman was coming for them.
Lobdell said that's when Sara put the school on lockdown, yelling on the intercom first then outside to the students to hurry up and get inside. Lobdell said within seconds, Kevin Neal was ramming a car into the school gates.
"It would've been a lot worse. The five minute whistle had already been blown and the kids were lining up getting ready to go into class when she called the lockdown," said Lobdell. "Had it been later, even by 30 seconds, there would've been a mass murder there, definitely."
Lobdell said it makes him sick that someone would target innocent children. For his family, this tragic event has been an emotional rollercoaster and Lobdell said though they are hoping to move on now, he always has it in the back of his mind.