After fleeing for their lives during a deadly shooting on campus that left three dead, Centurions returned to Saugus High School on Tuesday morning to retrieve belongings left behind.
The school opened for only two hours.
Some arrived on skateboards, others entered school grounds while wrapped in their parents’ arms and many more wore blue “Saugus Strong” T-shirts, including 17-year-old Audrey Marshall, who described her return as “surreal.”
“It was just kind of a weird feeling that it’s all empty, I guess,” she said after picking up a textbook and water bottle she had left behind Thursday. “It’s a weird, new normal and I hope people realize that it’s never going to be the same anymore. But I feel like, in a way, that’s a good thing because I don’t think we should ever go back to the way we were before because that was the past normal, but we need to grow from this and strengthen ourselves. I feel like this was a good way to progress.”
Maneuvering a bicycle in each hand, 17-year-old Canyon Canyon resident Talon Hays said he returned to campus to pick up one of his bikes he had left behind.
“I try not to ride in cars a lot,” he said. “This bike was locked up so when the police rushed us out I couldn’t get it and they didn’t let us back in to get anything so I had to use this bike. I had my phone in my backpack, which was locked in there.”
Other students said they were happy to reconnect with peers and have an opportunity to leave behind flowers and signs at a memorial outside the school to remember Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell — the two teenagers who died in the shooting after 16-year-old Nathaniel Berhow opened fire, then turned the gun on himself.
William S. Hart Union High School District provided counseling and emotional support, including several therapy dogs. Wednesday and Thursday should offer much of the same, with opportunities “for kids to get together and sometimes there’ll be chances to talk or there’ll be activities (such as) drawing and coloring,” said Mike Kuhlman, Hart District’s deputy superintendent.
“Really, we want to provide a venue for kids to get together. We’re realizing there’s a need for community in this situation,” he said. “As I said, this is going to be a good day and there’s going to be good days moving forward.”
Counseling services were also available at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Bouquet Canyon Road, where some students evacuated to on Thursday.