Kentucky school shooting unites small town

Luke Henne

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The population of the Kentucky town of Benton, as of 2016, is 4,531, according to the United States Census Bureau. But on Tuesday, January 24 and in the days following, the town’s population feels like a unified one.

On that Tuesday, FOX News notes that a 15-year old boy opened fire at Marshall County High School in Benton. He injured 18 other students, while also taking the lives of two unfortunate students. Those students, Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, were also just 15 years old.

It was very confusing for the students, as most were not quite sure of what was initially happening. McKenzie Tack, a senior at Marshall County High School, stated, “When I first heard the shot, it almost sounded like a balloon being popped. No one really had any clue what was happening, but the shots kept firing and by then, it was unmistakable. We all got down and tried to run as fast as we could.”

It was a gruesome, horrifying and unthinkable day for the town, the state of Kentucky, and the United States. The shooting came just a day after another similar incident at Italy High School in Texas.

It was clear, however, that the only way to respond to this horrific act would be for the town to come together as one, make everyone feel welcome and have every student feel like it was safe to return to school and to normality.

Tack said, “The reaction from our school, community and state was amazing. Even though this was so tragic, we had to persevere and understand that the best thing for us was to love each other while trying to get back into somewhat of a routine. Our teachers welcomed us back into school with hugs and so much support, surrounding schools created signs and wore orange and blue [the school’s colors] during events and stood on the roads as we entered into school on the first day back. It seemed as if everyone wanted to show that they were supporting our school.”

Although the healing process is not fully complete just yet, Tack made it clear that the continued support and assistance has been overwhelming. She stated, “Our teachers claimed that hugging us was a type of therapy to help us know that we were okay. The first day back was also open for parents to attend, so we could walk back through the school with each other. The teachers have been really good about talking things slowly as we are still healing. Our principal constantly tells us, ‘This tragedy does not define us, our reaction does.'”

While the suspect was placed in custody and is going to be charged with two counts of murder and several counts of attempted murder, the small town of Benton has showed the United States that the healing process has triumphed the cowardly acts of the shooting on that day.

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