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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

‘It’s Not Safe’: WIS Students Reflect on Recent Shooting at Burke

Shattered windows surrounding the Edmund Burke School’s glass bridge. On April 22, a shooter fired hundreds of rounds at this walkway from his apartment building, pictured on the left. (Courtesy of D.C. Metropolitan Police Department)

The fifth period bell rang. WIS upper schoolers poured out of classrooms, chatting excitedly about their Friday afternoon plans. Colorful posters were plastered on every wall, reminding students that the long-awaited Spring Fling would be held that very evening, on April 22.

At 3:18 p.m., less than half an hour later, a gunman opened fire on the Edmund Burke School, located just a few blocks away from the Tregaron campus. The shooting left four people wounded, according to The Washington Post

At around 3:30 p.m., WIS Security Officer Eric Day received an urgent call from Director of Facilities Dale Temple, requesting that the security team place the school on lockdown. “We had to get everybody into the Mansion and make sure everyone got picked up,” Day said. “We didn’t really have much information, [other than the fact that] there was a shooter on the loose who hadn’t been arrested.”

When the shooting began, junior Ariana Sabathier was driving home. Once she arrived at her house, her phone had been flooded with panicked messages from the Class of 2023 grade group chat. “I was really worried because my mom was on a walk with my dog,” she said. “We live a five minute walk from where it happened and we go there a lot with my dog… A shooting in general is horrible, but when it happens so close to home, it’s shocking.”

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Junior Ruthie Barrosse was walking home from school when she noticed countless police cars and ambulances driving down Connecticut Avenue. “When I was a block from my house, I noticed that all the police cars were congregating at the intersection of my street,” she said. “I took a detour through a back alley, and I found half of my block standing out on the sidewalk, trying to work through what had happened.” 

Juniors Kathy Lee and William Williamson were driving on Connecticut after school when they got stuck in standstill traffic. “While we’re in the center of traffic, we see these ladies on the side of the street and they’re crying,” Lee said. “They start telling us, ‘There was a shooting at Burke. We don’t know what’s going on. Get out of here; it’s not safe.’”

That afternoon, Sabathier, Barrosse and Lee struggled to find accurate information on the shooting. Sabathier recalls hearing accounts from friends which turned out to be incorrect. “I heard that [the shooter] got out of a car on the street and just shot at kids on the street,” she said. 

In reality, the gunman was located in his fifth-floor apartment building during the entire shooting, according to the Washington Post. Utilizing it as a “sniper’s nest,” he fired 239 rounds at the glass bridge connecting Burke’s middle and high school buildings. 

Lee and Williamson checked an app called Citizen where neighbors update each other on local crime. Similar to Sabathier, Lee remembers reading misinformation on the app which claimed that the shooter was hiding behind a car. 

Barrosse watched local news stations to stay informed. “​​It was super stressful. I was watching the news for hours, trying to figure out what happened,” she said. “Because if they didn’t catch him… he was a block from my house. He was five blocks from our school.”

That evening, there were two WIS events scheduled: one was a social mixer for the Class of 2023’s parents, and the other was the Upper School Spring Fling. The parent event was located at Tregaron, while Spring Fling took place at a venue outside of school.

All three students attended Spring Fling, but their parents did not attend the social mixer.

“I think that the parents who attended show [us] how normalized [gun violence] is at this point,” Lee said. “There’s a lot of different reactions to this type of violence. There’s the people who are not completely desensitized to it, who are scared and nervous. But there’s also the feeling that this is happening so often, so [some people think], ‘Damn, that sucks. I still have to go do my things, though.’”

The students noted that WIS has an open campus, which is due to the school being located on the public Tregaron Conservancy.

Shortly after the 2018 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Lee realized the potential dangers stemming from the campus layout. “I was in science class and something in the other classroom exploded,” she said. “I remember the class completely going silent. My heart just dropped… That was one of the first times that I thought, ‘This is a completely open campus.’”

Sabathier agrees that the open campus poses a security threat. “It’s so easy for someone with bad intentions to come into the school,” she said. “I see people just walking around campus and it gets in my head a lot.”

Day feels that the security team staves off these threats by keeping track of those who are on campus. “[If there is] anybody wandering around, I have to find out exactly what they’re doing,” he said. “They have to come check in, and I have to make sure that their ID matches what they write on the form. I know what time they come in and what time they leave, so I know exactly who is in the [Mansion].”

However, the students feel that this system is not rigorous enough, pointing out the times they’ve noticed strangers walking around campus. “People walk their dogs and they’ll walk up the stairs right into the [AAA building] parking lot,” Barrosse said. 

The students reflected on the many mass shootings over the past several years, which include the Burke shooting and more recently, a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. They expressed their frustration over the lack of substantial government policy changes to prevent gun violence.

“I​​n this case, we were lucky enough that no one died,” Lee said. “But that’s not the case for so many other people. And at this point, the gun [violence] in this country honestly seems like a choice. It’s preventable. This is one of the only countries that it’s happening in [on such a large scale].”

By Maia Nehme

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