Under Fire at Santa Fe High School, My Daughter Called to Say She Loved Me

santa fe shooting

Last Friday, May 18th, shots rang out at Santa Fe High School in Texas. When the few minutes of terror were over, ten lay dead before the shooter, whose name I don’t even want to repeat because I don’t want him to get any more notoriety, was subdued by police.

santa fe shooting
Photo: ABC News

One of those who was not killed by some miracle, in the Santa Fe shooting, was Deedra Van Ness’ daughter, Isabelle. She was in the classroom that the shooter targeted, and though she hid in a locked closet with some other students, the shooter knew they were there and shot into the locked door, instantly killing at least two of those hiding with Isabelle and wounding another. By the time police arrived, her daughter, says Van Ness, had “been laying on the floor for over 30 min next to her deceased classmates.”

Van Ness said this, and much, MUCH more, in a heartbreaking and raw Facebook note she posted to her profile in the wee hours of Saturday morning. While many of us were waking up excitedly and ridiculously early in the morning to watch the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Van Ness was trying to put into words the worst and “longest day of my life.” Her post is hard to read, but parents, I think we MUST read it, because the truth is, Van Ness could be me and you, Isabelle could be my daughter or yours.

This keeps happening. And one day, this type of tragedy may turn our own lives upside down. Van Ness says,

As my daughter finally sleeps, I no longer can keep the tears from falling. We see / hear about these tragedies through a TV screen once removed. While we grieve with and for the families, we truly have no idea what they are experiencing.
The outpouring of prayers and love from across the country have been very much appreciated by our family. And for those saying that sending prayers means nothing, all I can say is STFU! You have no idea how much it meant to us today knowing we were not alone in praying for our child.
I’ve talked to some people today and then had to shut my phone off as it became too overwhelming. But, I think it’s important for people to hear these stories and truly understand the impact.
She then goes on to say that the family’s day started out very normally. She said goodbye to her daughter as she left for school about 7 a.m. but was startled when she saw a call from her phone around 8:00 a.m.
As I answer the phone, she is whispering and I can barely understand her. Then I hear her whisper….mom, they are shooting up the school, I’m hiding in a closet. I love you mom. In the background, I hear gunfire. I beg her to stay on the phone and she says other kids with her want to call their parents and don’t have phones. I beg her not to hang up as the call drops. I was frozen, standing there with no idea what to do next.
This was the beginning of an hours-long ordeal for the Van Ness family — it will be several hours of being shuttled from one location to the next, and of standing in the hot sun, before they know if their daughter is dead or alive. When they finally are able to see her and know she’s all right, they begin to understand that their ordeal is nothing compared to what Isabelle has gone through. Isabelle wants to talk about her ordeal, and so they let her talk.
Deedra types out Isabelle’s story below because she wants us all to know. TO KNOW what our kids may face at school next week. She says,
The gunman enters their room from the classroom next door and fires a shot that grazes one girl and hits a boy in the classroom. She said everything happened so fast and everyone is panicking and running around the room. There’s a door at the back of the room to which the kids are running…only to discover the door is locked and they are trapped. Seeing the kids turning back from the door, she immediately starts running towards items to hide behind. She’s moving from item to item as the gunman continues to fire into the classroom. She is now covered in dust from the bullets hitting the walls around her. Kids are scrambling trying to hide / escape and she finds an area where he can’t see her, but she can see him. She finally runs for the supply closet where she and 6 other kids hide. They are able to lock one door and begin blocking the other door as another girl runs into the closet with them. As they are moving heavy items in front of the door, the gunman screams…Surprise M*****F****** and begins shooting into the closet. The gunman hits 3 of the 8 kids in the closet…killing 2 of them instantly. He leaves to chase other kids who ran out of the room and they hear more gun shots. Then he comes back.
By this time, Isabelle has called the police and is whispering into the phone. They tell her to stay quiet and that help is on the way. Then silence on the phone. They hear the gunman in the classroom next door yelling Woo Hoo! and firing more shots. She hangs up and calls the police back to be told that they are entering the premises and to stay quiet and keep hiding. Then she hears only silence again. The gunman then comes back into their room and they hear him saying….are you dead? Then more shots are fired. By this time, cell phones all over the classroom are ringing and he’s taunting the kids in the closet asking them….do you think it’s for you? do you want to come answer it? Then he proceeds to fire more bullets into the closet and tries to get in. She calls the police again and they tell her they are headed towards their classroom. After another 5-10 minutes, the police arrive outside the classroom. By this time, she has been laying on the floor for over 30 min next to her deceased classmates. They listen to the exchange between the gunman and the police, as they can hear him reloading his weapon. Finally, the gunman surrenders and police take him into custody.
Even as she is hearing her daughter’s story of survival, Van Ness learns that her son’s best friend was one of the ten killed by the gunman.
Have mercy.
Van Ness’ story is long and powerful…I have excerpted only a few bits here. I encourage you to read it and understand…we have to change this. We have to do SOMETHING…it STARTS with parenting our own kids well, with teaching them the value of life, of raising kids who love and who would NEVER dream of physically harming another.
But that’s not enough. Because we can’t depend on other parents to do the same, sadly. And we know that there are some who won’t. And we know that there are cases of mental illness and other disorders and people that fall through the cracks.
We need more security, and we need more laws to protect our kids at school. God have mercy on us if we don’t try to change this for our children.

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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.