On Friday afternoon, May 18, after classes had been dismissed, the Norwich High School began an active shooter drill. I attended the drill, which was coordinated with local law enforcement. They held the drill with the school district to practice and prepare for such a terrible emergency. This is a personal account of what I observed that day.
After half an hour of anxiously waiting for some kind of a starting signal I saw a man wielding a pistol. He walked down the Norwich High School’s music hallway and fired three times at a student; she dropped to the floor while screaming and grasped at her mock wounds – the active shooter drill had begun.
I wasn’t able to get a safety vest prior the drill’s start, so with the help of Norwich Police Officer Paul Slack, I donned a vest made of yellow safety tape, and was told to stand behind the police when they arrive.
When the simulated gunfire began, I saw a high school secretary rush to lock the office doors and call the police. I stood in the corner of the high school's lobby as the shooter walked by, and I remained there until a Norwich police officer arrived.
Upon entering the lobby and rounding the main office’s corner, the officer was shot. He fell to the ground and radioed in, "Officer down."
After a few moments, several Norwich Police Officers entered the school armed with AR-15 rifles, pistols, body armor, and tactical gear.
For several moments simulated gunfire was broadcast through the speakers, that were placed throughout the hallways. As police entered the school, they spotted the shooter. One of the officers yelled out, “Bang” and the shooter dropped to the ground.
I was told prior to the drill’s start, the officers wouldn’t be firing blanks out of their rifles in the hallway because it would be too loud, even with earplugs in.
Based on the noise generated from racing pistols fired by the two active shooters roaming the halls, I believed it.
The Norwich police officers cleared each classroom, checking for survivors or more potential shooters as I stayed approximately five to ten feet behind them.
Down a hallway towards the school’s gym, a student laid on the ground with mock gunshot wounds and blood flowing down his stomach.
They asked the student if he could walk, and he was unsure. They carried him down to a central hallway where members of the Chenango County Sheriff's Office were waiting.
After securing the student, the two law enforcement agencies met and formulated a plan.
The two groups split up and after following the police department down the hallway, I heard a call from the sheriff’s office stating they had spotted a second shooter in the cafeteria.
By the time I arrived with the Norwich Police Department, the sheriff’s office had subdued the second shooter, and that’s when I heard cries from a nearby bathroom.
A group of mock victims, approximately eight alive and two dead were in the room.
I asked one of the living victims about her feelings on the drill, and she responded that in ways it did feel real, but hopefully it never would be.
I agreed and left the bathroom to continue the search with a mixed group of law enforcement.
Emergency rescue squads and emergency medical services were cleared to enter the building, and began prioritizing and evacuating wounded students.
We traveled to the library, where victims of the active shooters were positioned to appear injured and deceased.
The doors to the library were locked, so an officer returned to the main office, and asked the principal to stay behind her as they worked their way to the library doors.
He took the keys from her, and unlocked the doors.
Inside the library there were multiple mock wounded people screaming out, “Help us, oh my god the pain” and other variations of that.
The officers cleared the room and found a number of survivors hiding in the library.
“Anyone who can walk needs to stand up and come with me,” said Officer Brandon Clark, after the squad secured the library.
Several people, including two who had mock gunshots to the head, jumped up and put their hands on their heads to follow him out of the room.
The drill ended shortly after, and the various agencies involved with the drill met in the school’s auditorium for a debriefing session.
Pictured: Law enforcement officers looking through the Norwich High School library doors while searching for wounded victims and active shooters. (Zachary Meseck Photos)