On the Spot: California school shooting hits close to home for Bowden

English teacher attended Saugus HS for 9th, 10th grade

Devan Patel

By Karen Lu, Coppell High School

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A quick search on Twitter reveals “two killed, three injured”. On Thursday morning, a school shooting occurred at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif.

Coppell High School English teacher Matthew Bowden attended Saugus High School his freshman and sophomore year in 1985-87. Thursday’s shooting left three injured and two dead—a 14-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl. The shooter was identified as 16-year-old Nathaniel Berhow.

“It’s weird because the school shooting thing, it’s terrible, it’s a tragedy every time it happens, no matter where it is,” Bowden said. “But when I saw the words ‘Saugus High School’, right there in my hometown, it feels surreal. My first thoughts were ‘God, that’s too close to home.’ I live here now, obviously, but when I say too close to home, I mean too close to my reality. Hearing it happened at a school that I attended, a school in my own backyard where my friends used to ride our skateboards and bikes around and play in the fields and the mountains behind it, it’s like a slap in the face, like a reality check.”

On top of previously attending Saugus High School, being an educator and parent makes Bowden view this situation through a lens different than most.

“As a high school teacher and someone who has two kids in public school, the rash of school shootings has always been top of mind,” Bowden said. “But hearing ‘Saugus High School’, and knowing that’s a school I attended, albeit a long time ago, just made it real.”

The Santa Clarita shooting makes it clear that on a regular school day, a child may walk to school and never return home.

“These are just regular kids going to school on a regular day, and they’re gone now,” Bowden said. “Their lives are over. There’s something about the teen years that are the peak of your life. The world’s open to you and your possibilities in the future are endless. These kids just went to school, where they should feel safe, and now they’re gone because of some senseless act. They’re not going to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with their family, they’re not going to do Christmas.”

The fact that a tragedy on this scale can happen so close to home makes Bowden contemplate the human propensity to believe in one’s own invincibility, especially in adolescent minds.

“It’s funny; we have this human tendency to think that we understand terrible things happen, but think that would never happen to me,” Bowden said. “It’s really big with kids in high school. With driving, they think there’s this invincibility. The school shooting didn’t happen here, thank God, but it happened somewhere I once was. It just rips you fast into reality and it makes you realize this is happening and it could happen anywhere.”

This story was originally published on Coppell Student Media on November 15, 2019.