Segro ... killed by a student on April 24, 2003.
Segro ... killed by a student on April 24, 2003.

SEE ALSO: Red Lion looks back at evolution of school security

Red Lion seems to be caught in a conundrum of torn emotions.

Wednesday marked 10 years since eighth-grader Jimmy Sheets pulled out a gun and shot and killed his principal, Gene Segro, before turning the gun on himself, all in front of a cafeteria full of students at Red Lion Area Junior High School.

Some from Red Lion choose to continue the dialogue about that event seared into their memories.

But for many former Red Lion students and current residents, that short retelling of April 24, 2003, is already too much of a reminder.

Then-York City Police Chaplain Bill Read, right, talks to a junior high student after a grief counseling session at Red Lion Area High School on April 24,
Then-York City Police Chaplain Bill Read, right, talks to a junior high student after a grief counseling session at Red Lion Area High School on April 24, 2003. (File photo)

Interview request after interview request about the anniversary was turned down by those who ask that that day -- April 24, 2003 -- be stricken from public scrutiny so the trauma isn't relived. Segro's wife also declined to be interviewed.

They want to move past it, though they don't want to forget the memory of their beloved principal.

They express how they are tired of the questions, and even more tired of rehashing a tragedy that put a most unflattering national spotlight on the school district.

And mostly, they're hoping everyone can move on as best they can from the shooting, letting the memorial art in front of the junior high school and the painted handprints of students in the cafeteria be the only tribute needed.

Legacy: Red Lion Area School District believes "Dr. Segro's memory lives on in this district and he continues to still have a positive impact on our community and students," said Superintendent Scott Deisley.

But just like the superintendent before him, Frank Herron, Deisley has decided it's best for his district to move on. There wasn't any service on the 10th anniversary or special tribute. It was, in the most respectful way possible, "business as usual," Deisley said.

Hannah Kuhn, now 23, was a seventh grader at the time of the shooting.
Hannah Kuhn, now 23, was a seventh grader at the time of the shooting. (Greg Mahany)

Not because they want to forget Segro. Because they want to remember.

Segro's memorial includes an inscription of his motto, "Learning is our number one priority."

And so, on Wednesday, district staff was working, Deisley said, just as he thinks Segro would have wanted.

"Red Lion Area School District is a better place because of Dr. Segro," Deisley said. "That's his legacy."

Deisley noted the legacy continues with an annual scholarship in Segro's honor. The fundraiser for it, the 5K memorial race, occurs every fall.

Dave Anderson, the race coordinator, said participation has dropped off some in recent years. But there's still a core of runners who show up every year.

Larry Macaluso, superintendent of Red Lion School District, turns away after a news conference in Red Lion, April 24, 2003.
Larry Macaluso, superintendent of Red Lion School District, turns away after a news conference in Red Lion, April 24, 2003. (AP File photo)

"We're trying to make it a positive thing," Anderson said of the tragedy. "It made you feel so bad that the kids had to go through it."

Memories of the day: Some can't ever forget that day, but in particular, can't ever forget that man.

Bill Read, currently the pastor at Liberty Christian Fellowship in Seven Valleys, was a York City police chaplain in 2003 and a father of a Red Lion Junior High student. He had high praise for Segro.

"He was first class all the way," Read said. "He was a teacher's teacher."

Although Read wasn't on duty that April 24, he rushed to the school when he got word there was a shooting, worried at first for his son's safety, and then, finding out his boy was safe, worried for the school as a whole.

Mourners line-up outside the Red Lion Bible Church in Red Lion before the funeral of James Sheets, the eighth-grader who shot and killed Dr. Eugene Segro
Mourners line-up outside the Red Lion Bible Church in Red Lion before the funeral of James Sheets, the eighth-grader who shot and killed Dr. Eugene Segro before killing himself at Red Lion Junior High School. (File photo)

After the initial wave of commotion subsided, the first responders and others got a briefing in the school auditorium. That's when then-Superintendent Larry Macaluso informed everyone what they had heard and feared.

Eugene Segro was dead.

"It was shock. Everyone felt stunned, and many, many tears immediately began to flow," Read recalled.

A student remembers: Hannah Kuhn, who was in seventh grade at the time, is 500 miles away from Red Lion now, attending Coker College in South Carolina as a senior on a basketball scholarship.

She said she knows Red Lion as a community "wants to move forward," but she also wants to remember and honor Segro, who was a family friend during Hannah's childhood because her dad taught in the district.

"Every time I saw Dr. Segro, he'd always give me a lollipop," Kuhn recalls.

In Kuhn's case, she was walking outside the cafeteria with a friend 10 years ago Tuesday, as it was nearing the start of the school day.

"I heard the gunshot," she said. "I saw Dr. Segro fall to his knees."

Her instincts told her to grab her friend and run to their first-period class. When they arrived, she closed the door, turned off the lights, and told other students to get along the far wall. They sat and waited for minutes, as Kuhn tried to process what had happened. The shot sounded like a table breaking, she said, but she knew better.

"Subconsciously, I knew something had happened," Kuhn said. "I knew what happened, but I didn't want to accept it."

She came to grips with reality later that day, when her father and mother got word. As she saw her mom cry on the phone, it all sank in.

"I loved him since I was a little kid," said Kuhn, who was 13 at the time of the shooting. "It's just sad his life had to be taken."

She's not as angry about it anymore, but loud noises still startle her. Several states away, she still thinks of Segro and that day, even if those around her don't know what she's been through.

"I would definitely say I'm different from it. I try not to take anything for granted," Kuhn said.

In the cafeteria: While Kuhn was outside the cafeteria that morning, eighth-grader Josh Campbell was inside it. Now a Springettsbury Township resident and a truck driver, Campbell said he still can't understand why Sheets pulled a gun out.

Campbell was just three tables away at the time.

"I could easily make out every detail of the gun," Campbell said, adding at first, because of the early-morning hour, it didn't immediately register what he actually saw. "I turned my head away, not thinking it was really a gun. Then I heard the gun go off."

Within moments, he and others ran to the side doors. The doors were locked, but he helped break them open. He and other students ran to nearby Edgar Moore Elementary, banging on the front door and pleading for help. Campbell said administrator Kitty Rineholt answered the door and "her mouth just dropped" when they breathlessly said Segro had been shot.

Campbell said he was able to hold back the tears while he was at the school. When he got home, the tears flowed.

Campbell still wishes he understood why Sheets did it. Sheets' parents could not be reached for comment.

Campbell played football with Sheets, and sat beside him in science class.

"He was always smiling, always in a good mood. He always seemed happy. That was Jimmy," Campbell said. "I wish I knew what could possibly have gone through his head."

-- Reach Andrew Shaw at ashaw@yorkdispatch.com