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Stabbing shatters peace in quiet community

By Ray Sanchez, CNN
updated 5:18 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Stabbing spree at Pennsylvania high school injures 20 students
  • Mother of middle school student says "It was total chaos"
  • Murrysville, with a population of about 20,000, is a quiet residential enclave

(CNN) -- The peace of mind Paula Fisher sought for herself and her children when she left Pittsburgh nearly two decades ago was shattered outside Franklin Regional Middle School on Wednesday morning.

"It was total chaos," Fisher said. "The kids weren't sure if they were supposed to stay in school or leave. They weren't letting anybody in and told us to stay back. There were ambulances running past us. I was able to see a lot of the parents that I know who have children in the high school."

The middle school sits across a field from the Pennsylvania high school where a stabbing spree injured 21 people, authorities said. A suspect, 16-year-old sophomore Alex Hribal, was taken into custody and arraigned Wednesday afternoon on charges of attempted homicide.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Seefeld said that before authorities arrived assistant principal Sam King was "very admirable" in tackling the suspect and holding him for authorities with the help of another assistant principal, Joan Mellon.

Gov. Tom Corbett told reporters that there were "a number of heroes in this day" and "many of them are students" who stayed behind to help injured classmates. He said teachers, cafeteria workers, other staff members and school police officer William "Buzz" Yakshe -- who was injured but who handcuffed the suspect -- ensured that others made it out safely.

"This is obviously a very difficult day for this community," the governor said.

Fisher, who has three children in the high school in addition to one in the middle school, was not surprised King was being praised for tackling the suspect.

"He's just a wonderful man," she said. "He would do anything for your child. He would make sure he would get in touch with you if there were issues. He was very conscientious of what was happening within the friendships that they had. Just an all-around great guy."

She added, "He would have done it for a stranger or a student or parent. But he was all about the kids so I am not surprised at all that he did try to get involved in stopping this."

Murrysville, with a population of about 20,000, is a quiet middle-class enclave roughly 20 miles east of Pittsburgh on U.S. Route 22.

"It was very shocking," said Fisher, who has lived in Murrysville 19 years. "We are a tight-knit community. Everybody knows everybody. Even the doctor attending at the closest hospital is a neighbor of ours. Dr. (Mark) Rubino, he knows these children. Watching him, it touches home."

As she spoke on the phone to CNN, she said Rubino, chief medical officer at Forbes Regional Hospital in nearby Monroeville, was live on the television news, talking about the victims and stressing "the critical nature of their injuries."

"We are so small compared to other communities," Fisher said. "We know each other. For myself, coming from the city of Pittsburgh, I came out here purposely to raise my children in a school district that we felt was safe as well as academically sound. It's a lot to take in right now."

At Dick's Diner in Murrysville, Deanna Tevelonis, a 1990 graduate of Franklin Regional Senior High School, said some parents were having breakfast after dropping off their children at school.

"They just kind of hung out until they got a hold of their children and made sure they were OK," she said. "They had instructions not to go to the school. You could see the tension on their faces as they waited."

A message on the Franklin Regional School District's website said all of its elementary schools were closed after the incident, and "the middle school and high school students are secure."

Franklin Regional Senior High will be closed "over the next several days," district Superintendent Gennaro Piraino said. The district's middle school and elementary schools will be open Thursday, and counseling will be available for the whole district, he said.

Fisher said she was running late getting her 13-year-old daughter to the middle school Wednesday morning. By the time they arrived, they had heard about the stabbings on the news.

"She didn't believe it," Fisher said of her daughter. "She wanted to get down there as soon as possible. Once we got there, not knowing if her friends were OK, she started getting emotional."

Three of Fisher's four children attended Franklin Regional Senior High School, she said. One of her daughters graduated last year and is now a freshman at Kent State.

"You see stuff like this all the time on the news, but you don't know the people," she said. "Here, we know quite a few of the families of the injured students."

At the Murrysville Spa, Roseann Markoff cried when she heard about what happened at the school attended by her nephews and nieces. She said she later learned that they were fine.

"It's heartbreaking," she said. "It's a nice community. The people are very friendly and hard-working. It's so sad for everyone involved. Something has been taken away forever in your safe community. You see these kids, and you know they're hurt and they'll probably have lifelong pain from this."

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