ESL plant shooting survivor recalls '88 massacre

July 20, 2012 8:59:59 PM PDT
What is it like to be shot, and what goes through your mind as you wait for trauma care? It's an ordeal a San Jose man remembers clearly after the 1988 massacre at the ESL plant in Sunnyvale. He survived, and so do the emotional scars.

The ESL building was razed about 10 years ago, replaced by newer buildings and occupied by other companies, so there is no physical reminder of that tragic event. Yet 64-year-old Greg Scott of San Jose still remembers getting shot and wondering whether he would survive.

"I was face down on the floor and my glasses were filling full of blood," Scott recalls. "And I thought, I'm the only one in this room. That blood's got to be from me. I've been shot."

Scott was hit in the finger and face by buckshot 24 years ago when Richard Farley burst into defense contractor ESL in Sunnyvale. Seven people were killed. Scott was one of four wounded.

As he lay on the floor of his office, this is what went through his mind for about a minute. "You've been shot. You're bleeding profusely. You're probably going to bleed to death," he says.

He doesn't recall any pain, even with a pellet lodged in his neck. However, it was a long wait -- over an hour -- before he could leave because the gunman was in the adjacent office. When he could escape, his brain gave his eyes what some would call x-ray vision.

"Everything from the moment I opened the door to the office that I was in 'til the time I was at the bottom of the stairs was black and white," Scott says. "I knew I could not step anywhere, it was black. I learned later on that I'd actually stepped over two bodies of co-workers on the way out."

Once in the care of paramedics and later at the hospital, Scott says his brain played tricks with his sense of time. "I remember looking at the clock and thinking that it was taking the second hand a long time to go around the clock."

A ceramic cup, nicked by the same buckshot that struck him, is a rare reminder of the ESL massacre. But his mind still remembers his brush with death and it has modified his behavior.

"You can't go into a room anymore without checking out two exits," he says. "You go into a conference room and you want to be seated next to one of the doors. It changes everything about your life."

Scott says he still keeps the name and number of a psychiatrist in his wallet. He has received counseling and he says he's doing fine. However, not all survivors of shootings fare as well. Scott says some of his co-survivors have crawled into a shell.

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