MATTOON --  Gavin Wallace, 14, was sitting in a hallway at Mattoon High School for art class drawing a first-person perspective image of the hallway when he heard eight or nine “loud” bangs ring out.

“So, I looked down the hallway to see what was going on, and I saw a whole bunch of people just start running so I took off running,” Wallace said.

Wallace and numerous other student bolted out the back doors of the building toward the baseball and football fields.

Simply put, Wallace was “scared,” he said.

That reaction was felt among many who witnessed or were close to the shooting incident that took place Wednesday on the Mattoon High School campus.

Crowds of weeping parents and students were huddled Wednesday afternoon outside of Riddle Elementary School, where students were moved to, attempting to grasp what had happened.

Destanie Garza, 15, said she was “terrified.” She was in the school library at the time of the shooting.

“Everybody just started rushing out and they said hurry up and get out,” Destanie Garza said.

Immediately after the shooting, Destanie Garza said many students and staff rushed outside of the building into the streets, initially hiding behind houses but later running further from the scene.

Throughout the ordeal, Maria Garza, her parent, was receiving phone call after phone call.

“Everybody that knew that I had a kid in the high school, everybody just started calling me,” Maria Garza said. “My phone was getting flooded and my heart just stopped. I was completely (nervous) and I just had to get here to get her.”

She knew her daughter was fine soon after, though. Destanie Garza said students were on their phones notifying people soon after leaving the building.

Marcia Garza said she saw most people running down the streets with their cellphones out.

Wallace’s grandmother, Kathy Gandy, who was picking him up, said she found out about the incident through her sister at the Coles County Courthouse. Wallace said she was scared for a while before finally getting in touch with Wallace.

“They don't tell you who is in there, who is not in there and who got hurt,” Gandy said.

Colin Malloy, 14, who was in art class at the time of the shooting, said he couldn’t understand why someone would do this.

“I don't understand why your life is so bad that you have to risk 500 other people’s (lives),” Malloy said.

Malloy recalled hearing two loud "booms" and then heard his teacher telling him to get down.

"I just ran out the doors," Malloy said. He added that most people were just in shock.

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Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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