Quick-thinking, well-trained, heroic teachers may have prevented another school massacre.
The 14-year-old boy who authorities say wounded a teacher and two pupils Wednesday at a South Carolina elementary school fired his weapon directly into a classroom but was prevented from getting inside, school administrators told NBC News.
The teacher and two boys were shot and wounded at Townville Elementary School in Anderson County, authorities said. One of the boys was critically wounded. The suspect's father was later found dead in his home.
Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper said that the shooter never made it into the building but that it was possible that "some rounds went down a hallway or in a window."
They did, said Joanne Avery, superintendent of Anderson School District 4 — because the shooter fired "directly into a classroom."
"He tried to fire his way into the classroom," Avery told NBC News. But "he was never allowed to access the building, and that's because the staff knew how to lock down the school."
The school was so tightly locked down, in fact, that "law enforcement said when they got there ... they couldn't even get into the building," she said.
Although they'd never dreamed that they'd ever need to put it to use, everyone at the school has been through active shooter response training, Avery said. And when the moment arose, "we were prepared."
That training probably saved the lives not only of many children inside the school, but also of the young unidentified boy who remained in critical condition Wednesday night at Greenville Health System Children's Hospital.
"Our school nurse and the other folks were right there and held that student's artery to keep him from bleeding out — they saved his life," Avery said.
"Clearly, without question, the staff and the principal acted instantly," she said. "And if they hadn't trained and known how to react in a situation like this, it could have been a much worse tragedy."
State School Superintendent Molly Spearman agreed, telling NBC News that the teachers and staff at Townville Elementary "love the children, and they took good care, and they saved children's lives today the way they reacted."
Even the teacher who was injured, later identified as Meghan Hollingsworth, "reacted exactly as she should and got her children back inside the building to safety — so a lot of heroes today," Spearman said.
And not all of the heroes work at the school.
The shooter was subdued by Jamie Brock, a 30-year veteran of the Townville Volunteer Fire Department, who was one of the first people to arrive at the scene, said Scott Stoller, Anderson County's director of emergency medical services.
Brock managed to prevent the boy from firing even more shots and managed to take him down without using any weapons of his own, Stoller said.
"Firefighter Brock is absolutely a hero to those of us in the community," he said.
At an emotional news conference Thursday, Townville Volunteer Fire Department Chief Billy McAdams, who arrived at the scene of the shooting with Brock, also praised Brock’s heroism, adding that the teachers “who protected the students in the moments following those gunshots are heroes just as well.”
Brock, in a statement read by McAdams at the news conference, said “the true heroes of yesterday’s senseless tragedy” were the school personnel who put their lives on the line to protect their students.
The volunteer firefighter added in the statement that his actions were “no different than any other fire or law enforcement personnel who put their lives on the line to protect their community every day.”