Linda Speer Graham was at work when her friends sounded the alarm.

Don't turn on the TV. Stay away from the computer. A new town has joined the club.

Though she lives in Jonesboro, Ark., nearly 1,000 miles from Red Lion, Speer Graham remembers April 24, 2003. It was the day the two towns became forever joined by school violence.

That morning, a 14-year-old boy named James Sheets shot and killed his principal, Dr. Eugene Segro, in a crowded cafeteria at Red Lion Area Junior High School. Then he shot himself.

The school brought in dozens of trauma experts to help those who'd been exposed. Similarly, when Westside Middle School in Jonesboro dealt with its own school shooting, they brought in counselors like Speer Graham.

"It is a sad club," she said of towns like her's and Red Lion. Though thousands of miles might separate them, when a killing happens on school grounds, the residents of school shooting towns feel a kinship with one another, she said.

When there's a school shooting, people around the country email, text and phone Speer Graham, a school psychologist and crisis coordinator at Nettleton Public Schools.

She waits a few days for the dust to settle. Then, she reads about what happened. If she jumps in right away, Speer Graham overanalyzes and becomes too involved.

"I never want to know the names" of the students in a school shooting, she said. "When you know the names, then you own it."

Speer Graham was a district psychologist at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro on March 24, 1998, when it fell victim to the worst school shooting at a middle school in U.S. history.

Two boys -- one 13 years old, the other 11 -- had pulled a fire alarm. As students evacuated the building, the boys opened fire into the crowd with handguns and bolt-action rifles. Four girls and a teacher were gunned down that day and 10 others were wounded.

The massacre at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo., which killed 13, injured 21 and brought school shootings barreling into the public consciousness, had yet to occur.

Mental anguish and post-traumatic stress disorder was common afterward, she said. And Jonesboro's recovery didn't happen overnight. In many ways, it's still going on, she said.

She and her colleague, Ann Bauer, say towns like Red Lion; Columbine, Colo.; and most recently Chardon, Ohio, often see survivors of school violence fall into two camps -- those who want to never mention the shooting again and those who need to talk about it.

"There always needs to be a safety net," Speer Graham said. "For those people who need to talk about it, they should never have to feel guilty about it."

Bauer was working at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro in 1998. She received the call in the early afternoon and went to Westside.

Bauer, who today teaches psychology at Cleveland State University, was among the first responders at Westside to dispense psychiatric first aid.

Fourteen years later, on Feb. 27, 2012, Bauer responded to another school shooting at Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio, about 750 miles from Jonesboro. Three students died after another opened fire on them at about 7:30 a.m. in a cafeteria.

"It bothered a lot of people in Jonesboro," she said of the Chardon event.

Some in Jonesboro didn't deal with the trauma from the 1998 event right away, Speer Graham said. She remembered one girl who had been near the shooting said she was fine. High school came and went. Then college. The girl had seemed untroubled -- a straight-A student.

Then, one day in a cafeteria, someone dropped a tray near her, and she suffered a flashback to 1998.

Speer Graham recalled seeing a police officer interviewed about six months after the shooting at Columbine who said "the worst is over."

"Of course the worst wasn't over," Speer Graham said, "even 11 years later."

"People heal at different rates," Bauer said. "Some people say, 'You should feel like me.' Whatever me is."

Red Lion is no exception. Last Sunday, the York Daily Record/Sunday News published "Finding Their Way Out," a story about how many in the town put the shooting behind them. Others are still struggling to move on.

Reaction to the story has been mixed.

"I respect those that felt the need to talk about that day," one reader, Sherry Holtzinger Miller, wrote in the comments section of the story's web page, "however there are many others that have put that day in the past, have overcome the pain and would not like to be reminded of it. Out of respect for those people, and especially the families of the deceased I think its more than time to let it rest."

"I think this article was more for the students more than anything!" said a reader who identified herself at Jewels Dize. "Thanks ydr for remembering!"

Neither reaction is invalid, Bauer said. And it's up to a community to take everyone's perspective into account to decide how to best give everyone the opportunity to heal.

In many ways, Red Lion has done exactly that over the years. The district has allowed the handprints students added to the walls of the cafeteria to remain. Two stained glass windows dedicated to Segro are positioned in the library, and every year hundreds of runners turn out for the Dr. Segro Memorial 5K.

About a year after the shooting at Westside, the Arkansas State University held a conference for emergency responders, educators, psychologists and others to talk about what had happened that day, response techniques and more. Anyone could attend. The result was therapeutic, Speer Graham said.

Something similar -- even at nine years -- could help Red Lion, Speer Graham said. Residents from the community could be invited to attend. That way, those who want to talk can, those who don't can remain silent.

Bauer recommended that those still struggling might consider compiling a scrapbook or working on a book about their experiences.

Discussion is important, because silence can lead to misperception, Speer Graham said.

"It can become a dirty little secret," she said.


Read "Red Lion: Finding their way out" at

PTSD app

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD and the Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth and Technology are offering an app called PTSD Coach.

The app features:

--- information on PTSD and treatments;

--- tools for screening and tracking your symptoms.

--- skills to help you handle stress symptoms.

--- links to support and help.

Visit for details.

Also of interest

· School violence in Red Lion: When bad things happen to good towns