New Kensington native Anthony Breznican recounts panic after California school shooting |
Valley News Dispatch

New Kensington native Anthony Breznican recounts panic after California school shooting

Megan Guza
D.J. Hamburger, center in blue, a teacher at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., comforts a student after reports of a shooting at the school on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.

New Kensington native and Santa Clarita writer Anthony Breznican had just dropped off his children at elementary school Thursday morning when he swung around and went back.

There’d been a shooting.

Not at his children’s school, but a high school nearby. When police officers who live in the neighborhood began picking up their kids from the school, he did the same.

His 10-year-old daughter was dressed as a pilgrim. A Thanksgiving pageant was scheduled for that day. He asked her what she’d heard.

“She whispered, ‘A kid at Saugus High hurt a bunch of other kids,’ ” he said. “And then she started to cry.”

The alleged shooter, a teenage student, killed two and wounded three at Saugus High School before turning the gun on himself. Authorities said he was in grave condition.

Breznican grew up in the Alle-Kiski Valley and attended the University of Pittsburgh. He now writes for Vanity Fair.

He recalled a day in April 2017 when, sitting in his car, he heard the name of his kids’ elementary school coupled with the word “shooting.” He said he felt reality was slipping away before realizing the school was one with the same name 100 miles away in San Bernardino.

“I felt that close call that day. Today it’s even closer. Thank God it wasn’t actually our school; it was the school a few neighborhoods away,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that tomorrow this (couldn’t) happen again at our very school.”

Growing up in New Kensington, guns were around — handguns for home protection, rifles for hunting — but now, he said, it’s different.

“There wasn’t this culture around them, there wasn’t this fantasy that you were going to use your guns to fend off some vicious hoard,” he said. “Guns have become a form of entertainment … a way for venting your anger, frustration.”

He said the feeling of “it will eventually happen here” has been building. On Twitter, Breznican posted links to stories about threats made to local schools, as well as a murder-suicide at a nearby preschool last year.

“Now we’re seeing what happens to a community where we see the signs coming, we see the danger growing,” he said. “I’ve dreaded the day Santa Clarita would be added to the list.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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