5 min read

A Parking Lot Shooting At A High School

A Parking Lot Shooting At A High School
There use to be a dariy queen across the street from the school and we'd go there often.

7:46p, Saturday Night.

“Someone is blowing up your phone,” my wife said. The phone was on silent and vibrating on the table across the room. I didn’t hear it. I never hear it when it rings on silent.

I was on the floor, my toddler and I deep in a 24-piece puzzle of brightly drawn lions and tigers. I jumped up, since there’s only one person that would actually call me on a Saturday night — my 17-year-old, Vinnie.

There was already a voicemail.

I started playing the message but couldn’t finish, you could hear the commotion in the background, someone talking on the PA. I dialed the kid back immediately.

Answering on the third ring, “Hey Dad, I’m okay, but my phone is about to die, I’m gonna try and find a charger and call you right back. But I’m okay. I love you dad.”

My wife and baby looked at me, concerned, and I guessed it.

“I bet there was a shooting,” I said. My heart started racing.

Guessing that and being right made for a very weird, depressing night. I sprung into action and swapped my pajama bottoms for seasonably inappropriate shorts, checked the Find My iPhone app and saw the glowing dot of Devitodan—what Vinnie named his phone this week, I don’t know what it means— at Franklin High School.

I knew they were at the basketball game, up in the press booth, calling the game for the school’s AM radio station.

The phone rang back, “We’re all okay and they’re gonna let us out of here, but we don’t really want to take the bus, can you come and get us? There’s four of us.”

“On my way,” as I kissed my wife and toddler goodbye, knowing I was about to miss bath-time on an already hard, napless day. “I love you two. I'm sorry.”

I have never driven so fast across town, the rain coming down, oncoming car lights blurred by a combination of a still-foggy window, the rain and my astigmatism. I knew they were okay, that it was probably all over, the shooting, but still.

I called as I pulled up where the old Dairy Queen use to be, a place where we'd gotten ice cream a hundred times. “I’m on Division, across the football field – where the Dairy Queen was.”

“We’re in the gym, still, I don't think we can cross the field.”
“I’ll come to you.”

This isn’t a High School I've ever been in (they were the visiting team) so I tried multiple ways to get to them, encountering a few dead-ends that abutted a soccer field and the track. I saw across another field a stream of kids leaving the gym, headed towards the street on the south. Pulling around the long block, I saw the flashing lights. Cop cars. Dozens of them.

“Siri, call Vinnie.” It went to voicemail. Twice.

Finally, “I’m on 56th and Tibbets, I don’t think I can get any closer with the cops.”
“That’s okay, I see you on my phone, we’ll come to you.”

I watched a dot start walking down 54th, which doesn’t connect to Tibbets. So I did a three point turn and rotated around, trying to go to meet them. When I got there, the phone rang, “where you at?”

They had made it back to where I had just been.
“Stay put, I’ll be right there.”

The street was packed with cars, so I couldn’t turn the car around. I went North on 54th and took a right onto Woodward, rolling down my window, and then weaving on the wrong side of the street through the cops. I was nervous, knowing I probably shouldn’t go that way, but also very prepared to desperately say “my kid is down there” if questioned. There was police tape up near the exit and toward the street.

At this point, I didn’t have any details of what had happened. The only thing I knew was “there had been a shooting.”

I drove through, 10 mph, instinctively trying to look, but nervous about what I might see. Would I see something shot up? Broken Glass? Bullet holes? Casings? Those little plastic yellow tents with numbers on them from Law & Order?

Would I see someone who had been shot?
Would the kids have?

But, there was nothing, really.

There were cops standing by their idling SUVs, lights flashing, hands on hips, talking to each other. That was it.

I rounded the corner back on to 46th and saw the four of them. They loaded into the car. My child. My firstborn. Safe. “Hey pops!”

It was Vinnie, their girlfriend, one of their best friends, and then another kid. I was instructed to drive to the friend’s house, who mumbled the address, but I remembered where it was (I’d just dropped the kid and their drums off for band practice the week before), and started weaving up on side streets towards it.

I heard the story of what happened, how they didn’t see anything, but everyone was panicked. How they thought they’d just delay the game (which was tied at a dramatic 7 to 7), but then cancelled it. How they all were scared, but also felt okay and relatively safe up in the broadcast booth.

I interrupted, “Can I ask who the other person is in the car with us?” and they all laughed.

It was nice, the laughter. I got to hear the kid’s name and the story of how he wound up in my car on a rainy night in January after the basketball game was cancelled because of a shooting.

They talked amongst themselves about going to Powell’s and seeing just released copies of some sort of Romantic Vampire fantasy novel (I didn’t catch the name), the fifth in the series, and how it was near the Jane Austen books, which was funny to them, and how Vinnie “almost picked up that one collection,” before his girlfriend interjected, “I already have it.”

They were normal kids talking about normal teen stuff and my heart stopped racing. Everything was gonna be okay.

I have been thinking about it all day and night, I wasn’t going to write any of this up, but then I read the article in The Oregonian.

School resumes Monday at Portland’s Franklin High, site of parking-lot shooting
Gunfire outside of Franklin High School abruptly ended the Portland Interscholastic League Showcase basketball tournament Saturday night and injured one juvenile.

I thought writing it up might help me clarify my feelings on all of it, and I’m not sure it did.

The kid who had the gun, who they took into custody, is 15 years old.

I don’t know what to say about that, or why that feels important, but it does.

I don’t know what to say about any of it, honestly, I’m tired.

I love my kid and I’m glad they are okay.

A bunch of essays, photos and thoughts by Pat Castaldo.