Recounting school terror

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 1, 2001

When Holly Glassel heard the rumors two weeks ago about students planning to bring weapons to Albert Lea schools, she wondered if her nightmare had followed her from California.

Tuesday, May 01, 2001

When Holly Glassel heard the rumors two weeks ago about students planning to bring weapons to Albert Lea schools, she wondered if her nightmare had followed her from California.

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Glassel knows firsthand how violence in school can change a whole community. She was a recent graduate of Lindhurst High School in Marysville, Calif. when, in 1992, a gunman entered her school and killed four people. Glassel was friends with both the shooter and one of the victims.

The Marysville school shooting was one of the first of its kind in the nation, said Glassel.

That’s why the recent rumors worried her.

&uot;I was very concerned. I don’t think it can be taken lightly,&uot; said Glassel, who now lives in Albert Lea.

After talking with Superintendent David Prescott, Glassel was invited to speak to three communications classes at the high school to tell her story. She thinks there are some similarities between her old school and community and Albert Lea.

&uot;Our high schools aren’t so different. My high school was in a small city like Albert Lea, it had a closed campus policy, and many of us thought there were a lot of cliques,&uot; Glassel said. &uot;Nobody ever though a shooting could happen – ever.&uot;

&uot;I know you guys think this happens all the time now, but back then, it was unthinkable,&uot; she said.

Standing before a group of students, Glassel recounted the day, May 1 1992, when she heard about the shooting at her high school where her brother and sister attended and many of her friends were just three weeks from graduation.

&uot;I saw it all on CNN. You know when your town is on CNN, something is not right – something big is going on,&uot; Glassel said.

Sitting by the television all day with the phone at her side, Glassel waited for news of her family and friends as the gunman held scores of people hostage. Finally, several hours later, she discovered the gunman was her friend Eric who used to date one of her best friends.

Then she got the devastating news that one of the victims was her close friend Jason, who had frequently teased Eric, accusing him of being gay. Glassel has regrets she never intervened to stop the teasing.

&uot;I feel somewhat responsible. I even wonder, in all honesty, if I had been there, I don’t think I would have lived through it,&uot; Glassel said.

Glassel said theories abound trying to explain why her friend Eric brought violence and murder to her school: He came from a single-parent family and felt abandoned by his father. He resented flunking a class and failing to graduate. He was angry at the teasing, or perhaps he was even mentally ill.

After a lengthy trial, Eric received the death penalty. Though Glassel has never spoken to her old friend, she knows he is sitting in state prison, waiting for execution.

&uot;I know what he did was inexcusable, but he was my friend. I rode in his car – we did things together,&uot; Glassel said. &uot;I still can’t believe it.&uot;

Glassel urged the ALHS students to be good to one another and to go out of the way to say something nice to people outside their usual circle of friends. She also told them to take rumors of violence seriously.

&uot;I think it’s natural to blow off rumors, but you can never be sure. It’s better to be safe,&uot; Glassel said.

Laura Andersen, a speech communications teacher at ALHS, said having Glassel as a guest speaker makes the point that communication is very important in establishing a high school environment.

&uot;It certainly shows the human side of events like school shootings,&uot; Andersen said. &uot;Hearing this story and looking at their own school, it shows how communicating effectively is extremely important to maintain a healthy school.&uot;