Looking Back Ten Years After the Shooting at Essex Elementary

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It’s been ten years since a school shooting in Essex, Vermont.  A quiet neighborhood was targeted and two women were killed.

A somber mood at Essex Elementary School Wednesday as teachers were getting ready for another year of classes. The school was one of two areas targeted by Christopher Williams ten years ago.

“To have it happen here, it was a reality check for everyone,” James Cronan, PSAP Administrator for Vermont State Police in Williston, said.

Cronan was working when calls started coming in about gunshots in an Essex neighborhood.

He says Williams was looking for his girlfriend at the time. When she wasn’t at home, he shot her mom. Then he headed to the school where she worked.

“A little bit of time, we’re talking minutes here. They started reporting injuries within the school,” Cronan said.

Between 30 and 50 teachers were in the building when the shooter entered.

“People were hunkered down, they were hiding, asking questions about whether they should run out the door or whether they should stay where they’re at,” Cronan said.

Williams fatally shot Alicia Shanks, a longtime teacher at the school. A memorial is here honoring her memory. It was built a few months after her death.

The current principal Peter Farrell says the wound reopens each time there’s another shooting at a school, but he’s amazed by how resilient the staff is for coming back to the classroom each day.

Cronan says while a school can never be 100% safe, work is being done to train police and staff to be better prepared for what they hope never happens.

“We learned that it could happen to Vermont., so we focused on school security for several years after that,” Cronan said.

Cronan says a number of police departments reached out to local schools after the shooting, to create plans and train in active shooter situations.

A memorial walk and 5k for Alicia Shanks will be held September 24 at the elementary school.

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