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Oregon school shooting: Students, parents pick up belongings, reflect on tragedy

Photo by Stephanie Yao Long

PORTLAND (The Oregonian) - Freshman Marquis Kenney was hanging out with friends by the Reynolds High School gymnasium Tuesday morning when he heard what sounded like firecrackers.

Soon, students were being hurried down the hallway and into classrooms. Kenney and about 30 colleagues huddled with a teacher in the corner of a classroom for about an hour. They checked the news updates on their smartphones and waited for relief.

A gunman killed 14-year-old freshman Emilio Hoffman and led to the evacuation of hundreds of students from Reynolds High School, Oregon's second largest high school.

On Tuesday evening, Kenney waited in line in front of Reynolds Middle School in Fairview with his grandfather and older brother to pick up his backpack. Police had asked students to drop off their belongings outside of the building as they were evacuating the high school. Authorities then gathered the bags and brought them to Reynolds Middle School to return to families. Reynolds High School remained closed during police investigation.

Photo by Simina Mistreanu

Kenney, who had known Hoffman, wasn't sure what to make of the incident.

"Usually, it takes time for something like this to sink in," his grandfather, Steve Armstrong, said. "Especially kids at his age, things are changing so quickly. A week from now it may impact him a little differently. A year from now it may impact him a little differently."

Guns have never been scary for Armstrong and his grandchildren, who occasionally go to the shooting range. What concerns the grandfather is that people with mental health problems aren't getting proper treatment and that can lead to such tragedies.

"You believe that it's not going to happen here," Armstrong said.

Ehmay Paw, a 16-year-old who moved to Oregon from Thailand last year, would have never expected something like this to happen at her school. It's not something that happens in schools in her home country, she said, all the while smiling.

Lisa Smith found her daughter, Ashley, a Reynolds sophomore, similarly brave when she picked her up at a nearby Fred Meyer Tuesday afternoon. The girl gave her a hug and said she's OK. Only later she found out the victim was Hoffman, a close friend.

"That's when it got to her," Smith said.

She has tried to explain to her daughter she has all kinds of support available to her, from her family to counseling.

Lawrence Clark has tried to have a similar conversation with his younger brother, Kenney.

"His (freshman) class is going to have to carry on all the way through the end of high school," Clark said. "If he stays at Reynolds, this is something he's going to go through. It will be part of their history."

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