MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

May 21, 1998: 'Never again is what we thought, and we're still saying that 20 years later'

A 15-year-old shot and killed students Ben Walker and Mikael Nickolauson and wounded 26 others May 21, 1998, at Thurston High School, after killing his parents the day before. (Still from file video)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Before Parkland, before Sandy Hook, before Columbine - there was Thurston.

A student opened fire at school May 21, 1998, a day after killing his parents.

Two students died: Ben Walker and Mikael Nickolauson. More than two dozen others were wounded.

Ryan Atteberry was one of them.

His picture was among the most unforgettable images of that day: a bloodied student being led to safety by paramedics.

Ryan was temporarily paralyzed.

Twenty years later, he works for the Springfield School District in custodial services.

He doesn't dwell on what happened that day.

"I mean, every once in a while I'll think about it," he said, "because everyone else reminds me about it."

Ryan's mother, Yvonne, also works for the school district in library services at Thurston Elementary School.

"'Never Again' is what we thought," she said, "and we're still saying that 20 years later."

For Don Stone, the recent rampage at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, takes him back to ground zero at Thurston.

"It was a sight that I won't forget," said Stone, an educator and football coach who ran into the cafeteria to come to the aid of wounded students. "I will take with me forever."

But in the aftermath of Parkland, Stone also feels hope.

"The way the students of that school have stepped up and have really awakened the consciousness of this nation," he said, "I'm all of a sudden very hopeful as to what might happen in the near future."

Stone thinks stricter background checks on firearm purchases and more control on access to assault-style rifles are needed.

For Dennis Murphy, the 20th anniversary is another opportunity to push for solutions.

Murphy was the Springfield Fire chief that day.

In the aftermath of the shooting, he launched the award-winning Ribbon of Promise program to challenge students nationwide.

"Keep your eyes open and report what you know," Murphy said of the Promise, "and know that you're not being a rat. You're protecting your school and your students and yourself."

Now Murphy is seeking support for an advanced intelligence center on the web, a place to collect the top strategies to prevent school shootings.

"Its role is to pull all the best research data together and allow people to have those strategies at hand," Murphy said.

The goal: Prevent future shootings.

But nothing can change the past.

Looking back, Yvonne Atteberry realizes she and Ryan can't escape Thurston.

"It happened. It's sad that it happened," she said. "I could start crying if I don't watch out, because it is just - the support is what got us through. It's not just us, it's everybody."

Looking forward, they choose not to be victims.

Ryan Atteberry still carries the bullet that hit him in the jaw.

"The spinal cord - I got extremely lucky because I could have been paralyzed the rest of my life," he said.

And amazingly, he carries no bitterness.

"For me, it doesn't really bother me. I knew it's in the past. I don't dread about it," he said. "I just keep looking forward."

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off

Trending