Saugus High School Shooting Leaves Close-Knit Community Shaken

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At 7:30 a.m., most high school students sit weary in first period or wake up and eat a bowl of cereal, ready to face the day. But for the students of Saugus High School, Nov. 14 at 7:30 a.m. was a time of fright and alarm as gunfire broke out in the school’s quad area, leaving two students dead and three injured. Santa Clarita, a previously quiet and quaint town, was ranked in 2006 by Money magazine as 18th out of the “top 100 places to live.” This title met its downfall, however, after the tragic events of Nov. 14.

Nov. 14 seemed as normal of a day as any other, as students of Saugus High School, located in Santa Clarita, California (just an hour-long drive away from CHS), sat in their first period classes like usual. However, the mood instantly shifted to terror as word that there was a shooter on campus spread quickly. Saugus students sprinted through the halls and informed everyone they could of the desperate situation.

As word spread throughout campus, students and teachers inside classrooms began to barricade the classroom doors with tables, desks, and chairs. Students sat in silence, many holding the fire extinguisher or a pair of scissors to be used as a weapon if necessary. The students sat trembling, having no idea where the shooter was and hearing no gunshots, texting their parents that there was a shooter, but that they were safe, that they loved them, and that they should not worry.

“We had no clue whether the shooter was on the opposite side of campus or right outside our door,” 17-year-old Saugus High School student Andrei Mojica said to the Los Angeles Times. “The fear made it feel like we were waiting in silence forever.”

This silence broke at 7:30 a.m., as the sound of the first gunshot echoed through the halls. Nathaniel Berhow, a male student at Saugus High School, stood in the middle of the quad, pulled out a .45-caliber handgun from his backpack and opened fire on the students frozen in the quad. Authorities later reported that openfire gunshots continued for 16 seconds. These 16 seconds left 15-year-old Gracie Anne Muehlberger and 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell dead. Leaving three other students seriously injured, an unshakable trauma spread throughout the Saugus High School community.

The number 16 is significant to this tragedy in a way beyond counting seconds, as authorities reported it to be Berhow’s 16th birthday. On this day, Nov. 14, after the shooter opened fire upon his classmates, he turned the gun upon himself and fired his last bullet.

By then, police were flooding the scene. Injured students, including the shooter (who was later reported to be dead), were rushed to nearby hospitals and police escorted students off campus to the sea of parents waiting to meet their children. Tears were shed and hugs were tight among parents reuniting with their kids after the shooting was over. A student was heard asking, “What kind of a world is this?”

On Monday, Dec. 2, Saugus students returned to school. With blue ribbons hanging from every fence post, “Saugus strong” posters lining the walls, and therapy dogs roaming the halls, Santa Clarita is beginning its journey to recovery.