Hillsdale High teachers recall attack

August 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
On Tuesday, courageous teachers at a peninsula school described exactly how they stopped a young man during a pipe bomb attack, before someone got hurt, or worse.

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The teacher that pinned down the former student said Tuesday that the only hero in his family is in Iraq right now. He was talking about his brother. The principal who also helped pin the student down said, "it is a moment to rejoice." In regards to how they reacted he said, "We did this one pretty well."

RAW VIDEO: Teachers recall attack

17-year-old Alex Youshock walked down a hallway at Hillsdale High School Monday carrying ten pipe bombs on him, a chainsaw and a two-foot sword inside a guitar case.

ABC7 was given a tour Tuesday of the damage from the bombs he set off by school district superintendent Scott Laurence, who has been on the job a total of one month.The damage was minimal.

"You can see a scuff mark and a broken tile right there," said Laurence.

Youshock managed to walk into the school practically unnoticed wearing a jacket concealing the bombs.

"Up there, it gets foggy and cold, 50 degrees. He probably got through and had the guitar bag. We have a great music program. Kids carry their instruments. It's not that unusual," said San Mateo High School District Superintendent Scott Laurence.

After one blast a piece of metal tore a hole in the ceiling. On Tuesday, Hillsdale High School students posted messages on the internet social site Facebook saying Youshock may have been targeting a teacher. He ran down a hallway and to the outside through a door. But, before he could hurt anyone, Kennet Santana managed to tackle the 17-year-old former student. Principal Jeff Gilbert followed him and helped restrain the student.

"Once I had him I'm thinking okay, I could get kneed here. I could get head butted. So, while I've got him I've got to turn him. So, that's some of the thinking that went on," Santana said.

While Santana had him pinned to the ground, Gilbert arrived and grabbed one of his arms. He then saw there were more pipe bombs.

"I knew there were two because they were right there in front of us. I remember asking Kennet, 'How does he set these off?' He said, 'He has to light them.' He said 'I've got the lighter' and he threw the lighter. And, there was a pause and he said, 'But, I don't know what's on the front of his vest," Gilbert recalled.

"I tell you one thing that went through my mind is that Kennet has got this guy down, I'm not going to leave Kennet. You just can't, I mean what am I going to do? I think that is probably what Ed thought. It didn't seem to be that big of a deal at that point. It just seemed like things will be okay," he continued.

Police arrived shortly after and arrested Youshock. Teachers and students remained in their classroom in lockdown mode.

In addition to fast-acting staff, specialized door locks named after a true high school tragedy, Columbine Locks, also came into play. Many schools around the country put the locks in place after the Columbine tragedy.

"They are locks that lock from the inside so that you can't gain access from the outside," Laurence explained. He would also credit the physical structure inside of the school saying "it protects the staff and the students" and "was something the district planned for over two years ago."

School reopens Wednesday, So now, school staff has to take the frantic news of Monday morning; the two bomb blasts, the evacuation, the police and fire departments and their sirens, everything, and put it all in perspective for students.

"So they will meet in groups of 25. We will debrief it. We will have talking points for advisors to make sure the students are okay," Gilbert said. "We'll begin to identify students who are having some issues that we may need to follow up on. We'll meet as a whole school just to give people a sense of community again, and then we'll get back into classes."

The Adult Center on 789 Poplar Avenue will be open all day for any student who wants counseling over Monday's events.

LINK: San Mateo Union High School District
LINK: Coping with traumatic events

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