Ever since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, in which 20 children and six adult staff members were fatally wounded, the nation has been seized with a fear of the potential attacks that might occur in schools. The Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting and subsequent incidents only heightened that fear, beginning a cross-national debate on the merits of gun control laws, the causes of school shootings and the constitutionality of increasing school security, perhaps even to the point of arming teachers. None of that really mattered to Sederholm on the morning of the Franklin Regional High School stabbings, however. He was just worried about his little brother.
As classes began in Franklin Regional High School on April 9, a 16-year-old student walked into the school with two large knives and stabbed 20 students and the security guard who attempted to subdue him. Thirteen students were hospitalized as a result of the attack, and while the majority are recovering fairly well, seven remain in critical condition: four at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and three at the Forbes Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Suddenly, everyone in the nation can find Murrysville, Pennsylvania on a map. And just like that, it’s added to the list of small towns in which there has been a devastating attack, joining the ranks of other schools that merit national and international news coverage.
Sederholm is from Murrysville: His family lives there, and he was an alumni of Franklin Regional High School, where his brother now studies. He was one of the first people to become aware of the attack. “I basically spent the rest of the day in shock,” said Sederholm. “I couldn’t focus on anything.”
He spent the time before and during his afternoon classes monitoring the news networks, trying to find out anything he could about what had happened; who was injured and if his friends were alright. Eventually he found at that yes, his friends were fine—though one girl he knew from the swim team needed surgery on her hand, and another kid, a boy he coached in swimming during the summer, had to be rushed to the hospital because of a punctured lung.
“Nothing like this ever happens,” he said. “Ever. Murrysville is a very, very nice, tight-knit community. The worst thing I saw during my time at the high school was one fight in four years, and I think there was a bomb threat, but that turned out to be nothing.”
Sederholm’s reaction to the attack mirrors that of most others in the community, and that of additional communities who have also been affected by this kind of tragedy. Shock. Disbelief. Anxiety. After the initial shockwaves, however, comes a moment of reckoning. And Sederholm says that he’s extremely proud of how his community has stepped up to deal with and move past the attack.
“This is a terrible thing that’s happened, but we’re just gonna get stronger by it and move on,” said Sederholm. “I couldn’t be prouder of my community. The response from the EMTs was just incredible and I think that was huge part of the reason why no one died.”
One of the students at the school pulled a fire alarm in an attempt to evacuate the building, once he realized what was going on. And the attacker was stopped, not by the arrival of the police, but by Sam King, the assistant principal, who eventually tackled the student.
But there’s even more, Sederholm says, and it goes beyond the immediate crisis. According to Sederholm, there has been very little animosity towards the attacker since the attack, if any at all.
“Many people, instead of blaming him or saying that he should be going to jail for a long time, are trying to figure out what they could have done to prevent the attack from happening,” said Sederholm. “Which I think is just really incredible and makes me really proud of my community.”
As for enacting preventative measures by increasing security, Sederholm said he would support the installation of metal detectors at the school, but not go so far as to arm teachers.
Sederholm supports some increased security because he believes that “just one metal detector could have prevented this from happening.” Though Sederholm doesn’t want to see that kind of increased security—he believes it impacts the learning environment negatively—he does see how it might now be necessary. Murrysville is a suburb, so there was no reason for them to have that kind of security before. The school seemed secure with the school’s security cameras, local guards and a local police officer. Now, however, it looks like additional security might be warranted.
The story of the stabbings has been picked up, so far, by the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the Huffington Post, CBS, NBC, CNN, USA Today and the BBC World News—and will doubtless be used as evidence or counterevidence for those joining in on the debate about how much school security is enough in the future. It’s all a bit surreal for Sederholm.
“It’s become a national, possibly international incident,” he says. But to him, “this is just one of those very, very—I don’t want to say once-in-a-lifetime—but rare instances that happens. This is one of those instances that, at least…I don’t think I’ll ever see this happen again. I hope I never see it happen again, but I think it’s close to impossible that it will.”
As for the future of Murrysville and Franklin Regional High, Sederholm has faith in his community. “People in Murrysville don’t really wait for change to happen,” Sederholm said, “they are the change they want to be.” He laughs. “I can’t think of a better way to say that. But the people there are gonna take action. There are gonna be issues raised and they’re going to do what it takes to make the school safer.”