CT shooting reminds some of 1988 Greenwood tragedy - FOX Carolina 21

CT shooting reminds some of 1988 Greenwood tragedy

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The front page of the Index-Journal after the Greenwood school shooting is archived at a local library. (Dec. 15, 2012/FOX Carolina) The front page of the Index-Journal after the Greenwood school shooting is archived at a local library. (Dec. 15, 2012/FOX Carolina)
A June 2012 picture of James Wilson Jr. (SCDOC) A June 2012 picture of James Wilson Jr. (SCDOC)
GREENWOOD, SC (FOX Carolina) -

For people who've been in the Upstate for decades, the massacre in Newtown, CT, brings back memories of a deadly school shooting at Oakland Elementary School in Greenwood.

In an eerily similar story back in 1988, a mentally unstable man with a gun barged into an elementary school and started shooting. Police said James Wilson Jr. claimed two lives and forever altered the lives of so many others involved.

"My innocence was robbed when I was 8 years old," is how now 32-year-old Kimberly Simmons explained what happened to her on Sept. 26, 1988.

She said she was in the last classroom when Wilson stormed in with a gun. Simmons said she was lucky that his revolver jammed when he pointed it at her, so he only pistol whipped her head. Her classmates weren't all so fortunate. Simmons said Shequilla Bradley fell into her lap when she was shot. The child later succumbed to her injuries.

Another third grader, Tequila Thomas, died in the hospital, a few days later.

Five other students were injured, including Leah Holmes. Her mother, Billie Holmes, said her now 32-year-old daughter lives in England with her husband, but that Leah Holmes was the one who called her with the news of Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday.

Billie Holmes said Leah Holmes was very open and outspoken as an 8-year-old. At the time of the Oakland Elementary shooting, the girl told her parents she felt badly because it was such an awful situation, yet, she enjoyed the attention given to her by classmates, the community and the media.

Billie Holmes doesn't think it's fair for reporters in Connecticut to stick a microphone in a child's face when, they may not even fully understand the gravity of what happened.

Simmons said her family actually moved away from Greenwood to get away from the media and the memories.

First-grade teacher, Eleanor Hodge, now, Ellie Rogers, was in the cafeteria when Wilson first entered the building.

She said though she was shot in the hand and shoulder, she went back to teach at Oakland, through the difficulties of recovery and helping her students move forward. It was Rogers' first year teaching and principal Eleanor Rice was and is, her hero. Oakland Elementary is now named for the principal from that time, who Rogers said brought the school together with warmth and love.

Rogers hopes the children in Newtown, CT, who have now lost their sense of security, will have someone like Rice to guide them moving forward.

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