Book gives teacher’s account of Aztec High School shooting

New Mexico

On Friday morning, teachers, students and first responders will gather at Aztec High School remembering two innocent lives that were taken much too soon in a school shooting that happened one year ago.

One teacher inside of the school during the terrifying event is recalling her account in a book.

She hopes her words can show other teachers, that this can happen anytime and anywhere.

Irene Barry wrote ‘Surviving a Rural High School Shooting’, giving a teacher’s perspective of what happened that day.

It also includes her insight on what she believes worked that day and what could be improved if a tragedy like this were to ever happen again.

On December 7, 2017, police say William Atchinson entered Aztec High School around 8 a.m., disguised as a student carrying a backpack.

Inside of the backpack was a gun with multiple magazines, ammunition storage, and feeding devices.

Barry was inside her classroom teaching AP Language and Composition when the gunshots rang out and the school went into lockdown.

“I worried mostly about my family because they didn’t know what was going on for hours. What turned from 15 minutes until eight hours until we were actually released,” said Barry.

In that span of time, Barry and her 22 students were forced to stay in their classroom, unsure of what was actually going on.

“Students were very scared because social media was pumping out a lot of incorrect information. I just tried to keep them calm and let them know that I’ve been through active shooter training,” said Barry.

Barry used that active shooter training for one particular incident, which she recalls in the book.

“We were told on the radio only to open the door when the key was inserted. When the sheriff’s department came to my door, there was no key being inserted. They were hollering for me to open the door and I hollered back that we are not allowed to open the door. The principal came up and told me to open the door and I again said we aren’t supposed to open it because we do not know who is on the other side of that door,” said Barry.

Barry recalls training like this and adds more examples of how to protect students throughout the book.

It’s what she believes should be done going forward.

“In any tragedy such as this that there’s always room to grow,” said Barry.

Plus, she believes sharing her personal experience is also what will make the book useful for teachers throughout the country and could potentially save lives.

“If they read the book they’ll at least know one account of what happened that particular day and take that and be prepared for their students in their classroom,” said Barry.

Barry’s book can be found online on Amazon or through Barnes and Noble, as well as bookstores in Durango.

On Friday morning at 8 a.m., teachers, students, community members, and law enforcement will come together for a breakfast in the gymnasium to remember Casey Jordan Marquez and Francisco Fernandez, the victims from that shooting tragedy.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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