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Friday, April 20, 2018, 1:42 p.m.

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‘THAT MOMENT OF CHAOS’: 20 years ago, sad day at Westside

2 kids with guns opened fire, killed 5 people on schoolyard

By Jeannie Roberts / Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

This article was published March 18, 2018 at 1:30 a.m.

tristan-mcgowan-sits-on-the-grounds-of-westside-middle-school-in-late-february-mcgowan-was-a-seventh-grader-at-the-school-when-he-was-wounded-by-gunfi-re-20-years-ago-this-week-it-felt-like-a-hot-iron-got-stuck-beneath-my-arm-he-said-i-dropped-to-my-knees-and-started-yelling-of-the-five-killed-and-10-injured-he-was-the-only-boy

Tristan McGowan sits on the grounds of Westside Middle School in late February. McGowan was a seventh-grader at the school when he was wounded by gunfi re 20 years ago this week. “It felt like a hot iron got stuck beneath my arm,” he said. “I dropped to my knees and started yelling.” Of the five killed and 10 injured, he was the only boy.

Colby Brooks recalls the confusion that gripped students as the sound of gunfire echoed on the playground and the reassuring prayer with a teacher.

Scott Gauntt, superintendent of Westside Consolidated School District, walks through the memorial garden at Westside Middle School. The five beams sup...

Fresh flowers sit atop a sundial bearing the names of the victims in the memorial garden. Every sidewalk in the garden was replaced so no child would ...

A map showing the location of Westside Middle School

Former Craighead County prosecutor Mike Walden

In the 20 years since the tragedy, the face of safety in Arkansas schools has drastically changed. Legislation flows through the state Capitol, experts brainstorm solutions, police officers and psychologists stand sentry over students, the judicial system answers to new demands, teachers take up arms and school facilities morph into fortresses.

Colby Brooks recalls the confusion that gripped students as the sound of gunfire echoed on the playground and the reassuring prayer with a teacher.

Scott Gauntt, superintendent of Westside Consolidated School District, walks through the memorial garden at Westside Middle School. The five beams sup...

Fresh flowers sit atop a sundial bearing the names of the victims in the memorial garden. Every sidewalk in the garden was replaced so no child would ...

A map showing the location of Westside Middle School

Former Craighead County prosecutor Mike Walden

This story is only available from the Arkansas Online archives. Stories can be purchased individually for $2.95. Click here to search for this story in the archives.

CORRECTION: The state has 238 school districts, according to the state Department of Education. The number of districts was incorrect in an article Sunday about the 20th anniversary of the shootings at Westside Middle School near Jonesboro.

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