‘It couldn’t happen at Chardon’

Morgan Rowe, freshman fashion merchandizing major, shows her shirt she recieved at Chardon High school after last years shooting. Rowe was a senior at Chardon in February 2012, and was in the cafeteria when the shooting. Photo by Jessica Denton

Morgan Rowe, freshman fashion merchandizing major, shows her shirt she recieved at Chardon High school after last year’s shooting. Rowe was a senior at Chardon in February 2012, and was in the cafeteria when the shooting. Photo by Jessica Denton

Alicia Balog

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Morgan Rowe sat in her morning Spanish class right outside the cafeteria in Chardon High School. Her teacher usually let students go get breakfast and coffee before class started. As students were about to leave, the principal announced the school was in lockdown.

“We heard what we thought was a door slam,” she said, “and we immediately just assumed that it was this one teacher, Mrs. Grantham, who teaches right upstairs. But then we heard another one and we’re like, ‘OK, maybe this isn’t a drill. Maybe that wasn’t a door slam.’”

Rowe, freshman fashion merchandising major, said she didn’t realize it was real.

“My first thought was: ‘It couldn’t happen at Chardon,’” she said.

On February 27, 2012, T.J. Lane shot and killed three students and injured two others at Chardon High School. Lane pled guilty to aggravated murder charges Tuesday and is scheduled for sentencing March 19. On the day of the shooting, he was waiting for the bus to Lake Academy, the alternative school he attended when he fired his gun in the Chardon cafeteria.

On that day, Rowe knew her life could change at any minute. She said it was the only day she left her phone in her locker, so she borrowed a friend’s and contacted her mom. Once she heard back, she broke down.

“A kid telling their parents that they’re OK and they’re alive is something that they shouldn’t have to do,” Rowe said.

Once she was escorted out, she saw the helicopters, SWAT team members and her dad, who was one of the first to arrive.

“To be in his arms was definitely, probably a mix of emotions,” she said.

Sean Robertson, senior geology major, still remembers the phone call he received from his sister, screaming and crying.

“It seems like it was just yesterday,” he said. “You still got all the memories.”

Both his parents are teachers at Chardon High School. On that day, his dad called and told him they were all right.

“I found out later that [my mom] was just in lockdown in a room,” Robertson said. “So [my dad] didn’t really know but he at least knew to tell us that she was all right, and once we knew that, I could calm down a little bit [and] calm my sister a little bit.”


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videotoPlay(videofile,videoPath,videoAdPath,adFileName,width,height,thumbnail,adlink);}playerVariables();Two Cardon Graduates and Kent State freshman spoke with TV2 reporter Monique Zappa on their journey.

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Video by Monique Zappa. Contact her at [email protected].

Robertson said he has mixed feelings about the anniversary of the shooting because, although remembering is important, he feels it might affect the progress toward moving past it.

“I’m not saying they need to forget what happened by any means, but I think that people are finally starting to get back to normal,” he said.

Robertson said the shooting changed how people viewed the town.

“People were like, ‘I’ve seen Chardon on the news for the snow and the Maple Festival,’” he said. “But now I say Chardon, and they automatically think school shooting.”

Taylor Godine, senior applied conflict management major, woke up to a text message from her cousin asking her if there was another Chardon High School. She then checked Facebook, where she saw people posting about the shooting.

“I didn’t really know what was going on,” she said. “It was more like, I didn’t want to let myself feel anything until I knew all the facts.”

Godine informed her roommate, Cassie Griffin, senior English major, of what happened.

“I was very confused,” Griffin said. “The question always goes through your mind, ‘Why? Why did this happen?’”

Griffin said, although she didn’t know any of the victims personally, she also knew of them and said it is still hard to grasp.

“It’s hard to think about the families of the victims still grieving,” Griffin said. “I don’t think that’s ever going to go away for them, even though some people are trying to move forward with their lives at this point and kind of put that tragedy behind them. I don’t think it’s ever going to be possible to completely forget about it. Even though it’s been a year, it doesn’t really feel like it at all.”

Though there was sadness, Godine said people were coming together, growing closer.

“People were clinging to the red ribbons that they tied around their trees,” she said. “But the community became closer-knit. ‘One heartbeat,’ which was the motto for the football team, became the slogan for the entire community at that point.”

Godine, who will be playing in a band during the memorial ceremony, said the community took down the ribbons because someone asked to make them into a permanent memorial. But people still cling to what happened.

“I think the reason people cling to their ribbons and their car clings and ‘One Heartbeat’ slogan or saying,” Godine said, “is because they want to keep their memory alive.”

Contact Alicia Balog at [email protected].