Schools officials say everyone remained calm.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Marilyn Cortez bent over, grabbed her 8-year-old niece and lifted her off the ground in a bear hug outside Harding Elementary School.
"Oh baby, you OK?" she said as raindrops splattered against her plastic coat.
"I was so afraid; let's go home," she said, grabbing the little girl's hand, scurrying across the uneven sidewalk and heading to her car.
Cortez was one of a handful of aunts, uncles, moms, dads and other relatives who showed up at Harding on Wednesday afternoon as news of a shooting less than a block away quickly spread through the North Side.
"What a way to end the school year," said Jerome Hall, who was at the school to pick up his granddaughter.
One person was killed and two were wounded in the shooting at Benita and Cordova avenues across from The Rayen School shortly before 2 p.m. Harding is next to Rayen.
School officials said none of the shooting victims was a student.
Schools' response: Teachers and staff in both schools were notified of the situation and both schools "locked down," said Ted Terlesky, the school's security chief.
"We lock all of the external doors; lights go off in the classrooms; kids are moved away from the windows," said Anthony DiRenzo, Harding principal.
"Everyone that's inside, stays inside. Nothing is allowed in."
"We just made sure there were no problems within our building and no problems coming into our building," said Claude Bentley, Rayen principal.
Bentley and DiRenzo said teachers, staff and pupils remained calm.
Robert Conway, a Mahoning County deputy sheriff, was working security at Rayen when the shooting occurred.
"A lot of the kids [in the building] had no idea anything was happening," he said.
Rayen enrolls about 900 students. But, because it was the last day of school and many students had gone home early after finishing final exams, there were only about 200 students in the building at the time of the shooting.
"We were blessed," Bentley said.
Students were dismissed shortly before 3 p.m. At Harding, classes were dismissed at their regular time of 3 p.m.
DiRenzo said he talked to pupils before dismissal via the public address system.
"I wished them a good summer, and I also explained to them that I expected them to go directly home," he said. "We stood out front to make sure the kids went in the right direction."