“Bang, Bang, Bang.” There were only 30 seconds left in the game as I turned my head to the left and stood as several young men filled the small lobby that leads into the Frederick High School gymnasium.
What I thought was the repeated slamming of the metal and glass doors in an attempt to separate two rival groups from a fistfight turned out to be something quite different.
I was seated at the bottom of the bleachers closest to the gym’s entrance and close to my daughter – who was cheering at the game – when the Frederick High ticket table volunteers began to yell toward the stands for someone to call 9-1-1.
As the gentleman that I was sitting with during the game pulled out his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1, I headed toward the lobby thinking that I was going to help break up a fistfight among a group of 9th graders. I still wasn’t able to comprehend the fact that the sound of the slamming door was actually the air-cracking sounds of several gunshots echoing into the Frederick High School gymnasium.
Before I made it to the lobby, there was at least a half-a-dozen young men dragging one of their friends onto the gymnasium floor. “He’s been shot!...He’s been shot in the back!”
As they tended to him, I heard a commotion behind me. The entire crowd started to run as word quickly spread that shots were fired. Nearly everyone headed to the opposite side of the gym along the bleachers, with many of the more knowledgeable attendees making for the safety of the locker rooms.
As a group of parents began to attend to the young man who was shot in the back, I noticed another young man sitting against the bottom row of bleachers holding his right leg. His gaze was fixed and he seemed to be numb to his surroundings. I went over to him to see if he was okay. His only response to my repeated questions was: “When is the ambulance going to get here.” It was then that I realized that he, too, had been shot. The only evidence that was noticeable was a small hole in his grey sweatpants covering his right thigh. I stayed with him until the paramedics arrived.
It was at that point that a slight panic set in.
Where is my daughter?
I left the boys to the care of the medical professionals and headed to the other side of the gym to track her down. It wasn’t until I came upon the locker room entrance that I saw her. I gave her a hug and asked if she was okay. She acknowledged that she was fine.
I let her be with her friends for the next few hours as I watched nearby.
The crowd that filled the high school cafeteria consisted of both the Frederick High School and Gov. Thomas Johnson High School’s girls and boys junior varsity basketball teams, each school’s cheerleaders as well as numerous coaches, staff and parents of the participants. Although the situation was extremely stressful, most of the students had calmed down and began to discuss just about anything but the incident that had just occurred. The law enforcement agencies, the Frederick County Public Schools staff and several parents handled the situation as well as one could ever expect.
It’s my understanding that the shooting had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that this was a rivalry game. In fact, my personal experience with youth from both schools over the past four years has proven to me that this is indeed a friendly rivalry. Many of these children have played baseball, football and basketball together growing up. They know each other.
Even though I as a parent have cringed when I see a security detail instead of an actual police presence at the “city” games, I can’t say for certain that these boys wouldn’t have been shot elsewhere Wednesday evening. I do know that it is highly unlikely that it would have happened on the campus of Frederick High with hundreds in attendance if there were police actively patrolling the area.
If these shootings were “gang” related, as some are saying, better vigilance needs to be paid to the methods of communication that they may use as well as being a constant presence in the lives of the communities or neighborhoods in which they live.