Retired Teacher Wounded in El Cajon School Shooting Reflects on Texas School Shooting

Fran Zumwalt was wounded during the school shooting at Granite Hills High in 2001

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The Texas school shooting brings back memories of two school shootings in San Diego County. At the time, the shootings at Santana High School and Granite Hills High were considered among the worst in the country. Now, school shootings seem no longer out of the ordinary. A retired teacher who was wounded at Granite Hills High School reflects on what happened 21 years ago, and what is still happening now.

“I’m a little numb, I’ve been watching the news and then deciding I need to turn it off just to try to get away," said Fran Zumwalt. “And then I want to know what’s going on again, so I turn it back on.”

Zumwalt was in the teaching profession for 30 years, the last 27 years of her career she taught U.S. History at Granite Hills High in El Cajon. 

“You know every time an event like this happens it brings back memories, and you feel sad. Do we really have to do this yet again?" she said.

Zumwalt was at school on March 22, 2001, when a student came on campus with a shotgun as well as a handgun and opened fire. “I heard a pop.” Her colleague said “run,” and they both made it inside a building. Then Zumwalt said she heard five more “pops.” The gunman was down, shot by a school police officer from the El Cajon police department, who shared his time with another campus.

“It was just by luck he was there, and he intervened almost immediately. So this young man didn’t do any more damage,” Zumwalt said referring to the fact the perpetrator did not get a chance to use the more deadly handgun.

But Zumwalt and her colleague were hit with bird shots, Zumwalt was hit in the face and leg; five students in front of them took the brunt of it.

“One young man had almost his whole body covered with it. I rode with him in the ambulance that took us to Scripps, so yeah, it was quite something," she said.

Zumwalt said the school had been in the process of reviewing its safety protocols given the shooting at Santana High school just a little more than two weeks earlier where 15 students were shot, two fatally.

“We went through several drills because we had been warned there could be a copycat."

Now it is 2022, and another mass shooting, just the latest of many that are now more deadly.

“The weapons we faced are far different than today,” said Zumwalt referring to the use of assault weapons.

Today, schools also face other challenges, like the pandemic. Zumwalt worries about the teaching profession.

“I do worry about that. I know COVID-19 has had an effect on teachers and there’s a shortage of teachers now…We need teachers.” She says statistics show schools are still safe, and there are challenges everywhere.

To those who love the teaching profession, she says, remember the difference you make.

“It can’t stop you from doing the great work you do…It shouldn’t stop you from doing a noble profession that is so critical to the success of the community."

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