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Small-town America hit hardest by mass school shootings

Texas high school shooting
Officers hailed for response to Texas school shooting 03:01

ATLANTA -- The massacre that killed 10 people at a high school in Texas last week was just the latest to happen in a small or suburban city. Of the 10 deadliest school shootings in the U.S., all but one took place in a town with fewer than 75,000 residents and the vast majority of them were in cities with fewer than 50,000 people.

These are places with low crime rates, good schools and a sense of community -- attributes experts say make small rural and suburban towns a breeding ground for the next school shooter. 

The phenomenon is due to a variety of factors that include easy access to guns and the copycat effect of disturbed suburban and small-town teenagers emulating each other, according to experts.

Last week, the shooting at Texas' Santa Fe High School devastated the small, conservative city where everyone knows their neighbors and just about everyone owns a gun. 

Christina Delgado, a hairdresser and mother of two, remembers the day like a dream: a call from her best friend who couldn't find her children, running down the highway in her pajamas, passing screaming parents and teenagers covered in blood. A teenage boy had opened fire with his father's shotgun and handgun at Santa Fe High School in an attack that left 10 dead, eight of them children.

Before the massacre, Delgado had made a trip to Houston to join a March for Our Lives rally -- as thousands across the country, galvanized by the outspoken students who survived a February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, took to the streets to call for gun laws that might stop the all-too-common occurrence of children being massacred in their classrooms. Her 13-year-old daughter had watched that shooting unfold on TV and said she was afraid to go to school. 

The shooting in Santa Fe was the first mass school shooting amid the Parkland students' movement.

It was also the most terrifying event of Heidi McMillen's life. The sophomore had been on the other side of the school when the shots broke out, and ran down the highway with a mob of other teens desperate to get to safety. Just 93 days had passed since children in Parkland had done the same.

"We can't just keep going the way that we are, because it's just going to keep happening," she said. "It feels like there's not much we can do in the amount of time we have. Who knows when the next school shooting is going to happen." 

The tight-knit community of Santa Fe is still reeling from the tragedy that many thought would never happen in their small town.

Ten white crosses were placed at a memorial outside Santa Fe High School while a 10-second moment of silence was observed across the state Monday morning to remember the victims.

Florida Town Of Parkland In Mourning, After Shooting At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Kills 17
Alexa Mesch (L) and Heather Mesch place flowers in a makeshift memorial setup in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in memory of the 17 people that were killed on February 14, on February 21, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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