(PHILIPPI, W. Va.) — Twila Smith has spent three decades teaching.
All of those years, and nothing could have prepared her for the moment a student entered her classroom and put a gun to her head.
“I thought that it was my time,” Smith told ABC News.
The harrowing situation occurred Tuesday, Aug. 25, nine days into the school year at Philip Barbour High School in Philippi, West Virginia. The school was placed on lockdown.
Smith and her sixth-period world studies students were taken hostage, held at gunpoint by a 14-year-old freshman. The gunman ordered the students to put their cell phones on the floor and ordered the teacher to cover her classroom’s window, Smith said.
Since no one passing by in the hallway could see what was happening inside and with no way to call for help, Smith and her students spent the period trapped with the gunman.
“He said he was going to kill people and himself and there were times when he would actually hold the gun to himself briefly and then he would, he put it on about six students and as I said, and a lot of the beginning of the time it was on me,” she said.
Smith said she tried to keep the gunman from harming any students.
“I just kept asking him to let everybody leave and he and I would stay, anything I could think of, just telling him that he hadn’t gone too far,” she said.
When the bell rang for students to change classes, other students began knocking on the door. That meant more potential hostages.
Instead, Smith said, she turned the incoming students back and signaled a teacher, who called for help.
The school was evacuated, and police and the boy’s pastor were able to convince him to let the hostages go and surrender.
The boy, whose name has not been released, was held in a detention center following his arrest.
Smith said she’s proud of her students for maintaining their composure.
“I’m in charge of them when they’re on my watch, and I hope when my kids went to school, the other people felt like that too,” Smith said. “I mean, when they walk in here, we’re protecting, we’re supposed to teach them and we’re supposed to take care of them.”
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