Kristina Anderson, who was shot several times but survived the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, speaks during the National Association of School Resource Officers annual conference in La Quinta on Monday. / Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Seven years ago, on a snowy April morning at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., sophomore Kristina Anderson was late for French. She raced to her classroom in Norris Hall, a square building with heavy wooden doors, narrow hallways and stark white walls. Her teacher shot her a disappointed glance as she walked in late, and Anderson took a seat near the back of the room.
Moments later, gunshots cracked in the hallway. Seung-Hui Cho, a student loaded with weapons and ammunition, was shooting his way through Norris Hall, targeting crowded classrooms. He burst into the French class, blasting the professor as she tried to barricade the door.
Anderson dropped to the floor, hiding behind her desk, and threw her arms over her head. The gunman moved methodically through the classroom, firing once at each desk, saying nothing. There was a yelp after every gunshot. The footsteps crept closer.
"Brace yourself," Anderson told herself. "Your time is going to come."
Before it was over, 12 people had been killed in that classroom: 11 students and the teacher. Cho shot himself after police breached the doors of the building, which he had chained shut. Anderson had been shot three times - twice in the back, once in the foot -but she clung to life on the classroom floor.
The Virginia Tech massacre, which claimed 33 lives on April 16, 2007, was the nation's deadliest campus shooting, but it was far from the last. Random campus attacks become alarmingly common in American schools and, in many cases, the first line of defense are "school resource officers," an industry name for police officers embedded on school campuses.
Anderson spoke to more than 700 of these officers in La Quinta on Monday during an annual conference held by the National Association of School Resource Officers. Since the shooting, Anderson has founded the Koshka Foundation, a nonprofit that works to combat gun violence and improve campus security.
The conference began Saturday and continues all week. Starting Wednesday, officers at the conference can attend thrice-a-day breakout sessions on how to respond to "active shooters" and "active threats."
On Thursday evening, Michelle Gay, the mother of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012, will speak. Like Anderson, Gay has become an advocate for improving school security since Sandy Hook.
Kevin Quinn, president of the association, said the annual conference has grown to focus on school shootings because school resource officers now play a larger role in defending against gunmen.
Fifteen years ago, during the era of the Columbine High School massacre, law enforcement responded to attacks on schools similar as they do to bank robberies or hostage situations - gathering a large police force to surround and contain gunmen. But law enforcement have since learned a painful lesson: School shooters strike in mere minutes, and often only an embedded officer can respond fast enough to save lives.
Such was the case at Colorado's Arapahoe High School, where a teen with a shotgun tried to kill a teacher in December. Karl Pierson, 18, killed a fellow student, Claire Davis, who intervened. The campus' school resource officer, Deputy James Englert, was the first to respond. Pierson shot himself as Englert closed in on him.
Englert was given an award of valor during the conference on Monday. He said school resource officers could take simple, daily safety steps - like limiting the number of entrances into a campus - to make their school a "hard target."
"Before this happened, I would have never thought it would happen at my school," Englert said. "But it really does happen â?¦ and you want to be ready."
Kelman also reports for The (Palm Springs, Calif.) Desert Sun
Read the original story: Va. Tech shooting survivor recounts ordeal