Senior Ben Kirkland told WGHP he and his fellow classmates at Mount Taber High School ran for their lives moments after a gunshot went off around noon.
“You always think it’s not going to happen to you, and then like next thing I know, I’m running,” he said.
Kirkland said he was sitting down for lunch in the cafeteria studying for a test when he heard a commotion around the corner. Moments later, a school administrator started to yell out to everyone.
“I heard him say, ‘Shooter, shooter! Everybody, get back!’ and that’s really when it was like, ‘Whoa, this is serious,'” Kirkland said.
He and his classmates ran to the back of the cafeteria to hide. He said within minutes, they escaped through a back door.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “None of my friends knew what was going on. All we knew is that everybody was running, so we’re going to run.”
He said he’ll never forget the look on his classmates’ faces in those intense seconds.
“It was kind of hard looking at everybody, everybody’s faces, when they were running because they were running for their lives, and that hurt,” Kirkland said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.'”
As he was running to safety, he called his mother.
“I said, ‘I love you’ and that there’s an active shooter right now,” he said. “I was just thinking the whole time, ‘Will I ever see her again?’ and like, ‘How will this affect me later?'”
As officers secured the campus and tried to track down the suspect, Kirkland was safely moved inside to the auditorium.
Winston-Salem police Chief Catrina Thompson said Wednesday afternoon that one student died at the hospital after the shooting. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said late Wednesday evening that a suspect was taken into custody without incident.
Police blocked roads to the school and numerous emergency vehicles were on the scene. Later, law enforcement vehicles were seen escorting school buses with Mount Tabor students off the campus to be reunited with their parents.
Kirkland was reunited with his family five hours after the lockdown started. He said he never hugged his mother or brother tighter than at that moment.
He told WGHP that the terrifying experience will be something he’ll never forget.
“I saw the fear and the horror on a lot of their faces, and I don’t think I’ll ever get that image out of my brain,” Kirkland said.
He said he did not know the victim but that his heart goes out to the family and the rest of the Mount Tabor community for healing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.