MURRYSVILLE, Pa. — Stabbed in the back by a knife-wielding classmate rampaging through his school on Wednesday, Franklin Regional Senior High School sophomore Brett Hurt said “it was all kind of like a blur.”
The first of the 22 victims to give a media interview, the 16-year-old appeared Thursday in a wheelchair at a packed news conference at Forbes Hospital, joined by his mother and the top medical staff.
“I think all of us who got injured in the accident need time to cope,” he said. “We’re all lucky to still be alive. Even the people that are in critical right now, they’re lucky. We’re pretty much blessed.”
He said the incident happened too quickly to recall much. Alex Hribal, 16, a sophomore at the high school, has been arrested and charged as the attacker.
“Only thing I remember is messing around with Gracey [Evans] and like bumping her out of the way” as the two were “goofing off” before classes, he said.
“Next thing I know the kid [Alex Hribal, 16] runs by and hits me in the back, and that’s when everything went into straight chaos. When I got hit everyone ran in different directions. Gracey was screaming and asking if I was all right.”
He said Miss Evans, a junior, applied pressure to his wound until paramedics arrived. Doctors said her actions helped save him.
“What was going through my mind?” the teen asked. “ ‘Will I survive or will I die?’ Gracey saved my life.”
He was among seven students being treated at Forbes.
The three most seriously injured, each with a stab wound that damaged vital organs, remained in the intensive care unit.
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Two of them are on ventilators and were scheduled to return to surgery on Thursday, officials said.
Four others who were less seriously injured also remained at the hospital. Christoph Kaufmann, chief trauma surgeon, said two were set to go home on Thursday, adding that the other two likely will go home on the weekend.
Dr. Kaufmann said the crisis, while horrible, occurred at an “opportune time” during a shift change, so a surplus staff of 20 doctors and 40 nurses was on hand.
Other badly hurt victims were being treated Thursday at other hospitals.
A 17-year-old boy at UPMC Presbyterian, stabbed through the liver among other wounds, underwent a second round of surgery overnight and likely will have surgery again today.
He was intubated but responsive and remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit.
At Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a 14-year-old boy and a 17-year-old boy, both with stab wounds in the right chest, were listed in fair condition.
At Forbes, young Hurt said he was among the first to be stabbed.
In local and national media appearances Wednesday, Miss Evans credited him with shielding her from the attacker. The injured boy said he was taken by surprise, however, and was struck from behind.
“I didn’t even know what was going on,” he said.
He said his friend applied pressure to his back and slowed the bleeding.
Paramedics then took over.
Young Hurt’s mother, Amanda Leonard, said the girl visited her son at the hospital twice on Wednesday and finally had to be shooed away because she didn’t want to leave his side.
“I’m proud of her as much as I’m proud of my own son,” Ms. Leonard said. “I’ve already hugged her, I’ve kissed her, I have told her ‘Thank you,’ and there is nothing in the world I can do for that girl that can thank her enough for what she has done.”
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Ms. Leonard said that when her daughter, who was in the school library at the time of the incident, called her to say her brother was on the list of victims, “I dropped.”
“I don’t think any parent in the world would ever want to go through that kind of agony, and for all of the students’ parents who are in the hospital with their children right now, I send my condolences, and I understand your pain.”
She also implored parents, students, and school officials to pay attention to the signs of troubled children and reach out to students who have difficulty coping with modern life.
“What have we done to alienate this child?” she said about the suspect. “I hope this child can find some peace.”
Her son said he didn’t really know the suspect, a common theme among the students at Franklin Regional.
“I feel that he has some issues that he needs to work out,” he said.
“He made a really bad decision, which took him down a path that I don’t think he should have went down. I think he could have chosen a different path to take, because everyone has more than one road to take in life.”
Later Thursday, President Obama called the principal of Franklin Regional Senior High School to express his condolences and offer support.
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Reached by phone at his home Thursday evening, principal Ron Suvak read a statement recounting the phone call:
“A little after 4 p.m. today, President Obama contacted me from Air Force One. He expressed his and his family’s and nation’s sympathies as a result of the tragedy that occurred at Franklin Regional yesterday. He said their continued thoughts are with the students who are still recovering from their injuries. He wishes them all a full and complete recovery.
“He was very complimentary of the efforts of assistant principals, staff and students, and their responses, and offered the support of the federal government and any resources it can bring to bear as we begin the healing process.”
Mr. Suvak said the phone call lasted “several minutes” but declined further comment on the conversation and any other matters related to the incident.
The White House said Mr. Obama made the call while aboard Air Force One en route to Washington after a two-day trip to Texas.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Torsten Ove is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Torsten Ove: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1510.