Teen Struggles After Killings

Heading into high school's home stretch, Class of 2000 member Jacque Steinmetz should have been on top of the world. Not only an honor student at Southwest High School in Fort Worth, Texas, she was also student council president and preparing to emcee the school's variety show.

But three months ago, Jacque was part of a terrifying event. The incident only lasted eight minutes, but it will stay with her for much longer.

"It was eight minutes of torture," she said. "And those things don't go away." Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports on Jacque's effort to reclaim her life.


On Sept. 15, Jacque was at a youth rally at the Wedgwood Baptist Church. Suddenly someone started shooting.

The shots came from a troubled, solitary man, Larry Gene Ashbrook, with no connection to the church or to any of the people he shot. He started firing in a hallway, wounding a maintenance man who asked him to put out his cigarette and then killing choir director Sydney Browning.

"You saw his silhouette come in the door and then he had his gun out. And then he shot through the door," Jacque remembered. Then he opened the door and came into the sanctuary. "It was just, like, boom, boom, boom. Continuous."

At this point, Jacque dove to the ground. Ashbrook paced back and forth behind the last pew. With a gun in each hand and 10 clips of ammunition, he fired into the crowd at random.

"You never knew where he was," Jacque recalled. "And that was your biggest fear, that the next shot would kill you. So I'm praying the whole time that I don't get shot." Jacque's friends have told her that she was hyperventilating during the ordeal.

During the shooting, no one was screaming: Most people were praying, Jacque said. In those few minutes of terror, Ashbrook killed four teen-agers, three adults and finally himself. One bullet lodged in the pew under which Jacque was hiding, she said.

Today the bullet-riddled pews are gone as is the blood-soaked carpeting. There is one noticeable exception: One bullet hole has been left unrepaired, an enduring reminder of the horrors that took place at the church.

Jacque and her friends have struggled with less obvious damage: the emotional scars from the shootings.

Susan Gregory, the principal of Southwest High, where Jacque and 36 other witnesses attend school, said that she has seen lasting effects.

"They find themselves not wanting to sit near doors," she said. "Creaky doors seem to be associated with the sanctuary doors opening."

For the first month after the incident, Jacque looked for a place she could hide as soon as she walked into a room.

Jacque has a hard time concentrating in class. She recently got a report card, and many of her grades had dropped. She even got her first F.

Her mother, Mary, worries that Jacque may have to deal with the emotional scars for a long time. "I think she would have had a schoarship wherever she wanted to go," Mary Steinmetz said. "And I think that changed. Mostly I'm upset that my daughter's not going to be the same now."

Just a few hours before the big school variety show, there were cracks in Jacque's usual confidence. "I'm very fearful in public," she said.

"I still have a little phobia of crowds, simply because I was in a crowd," Jacque said. " So I'm just praying and hoping that won't bother me. Just being in a big group of people - that seems to be something I'm not comfortable with."

But she gathered her courage and performed her job on-stage without a problem.

Jacque is working with the student council on a memorial to the shooting victims.

It's impossible to know how the agony of Sept. 15 will change Jacque permanently. The best clue to her capacity to heal may come from her view of the sanctuary itself.

"People were shot there," she said. "And people now worship life there - even though there was life taken away. And I think just celebrating being safe and free and stuff is gonna be revenge enough to me."

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