Julia Schardt was a second-grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary School in in Stockton, California in 1989 when a gunman came onto the playground during recess and killed five students, including one from her class.
Left: A collage of Oeun, a little girl killed in the Cleveland shooting who was also a student in Julia Schardt's class. In Julia's essay featured in the book she writes, "Oeun is forever an eight-year-old little girl, jumping rope, wearing red shoes."
Collage provided by Julia Schardt
“I wrote the journal entry on February 13, 1989, a little less than a month after the shooting. It’s probably a good thing that it was a few weeks after, because as you saw, I was not cognizant of many things that happened as they happened. It took a while before I could combine what others who were with me at the shooting told me, with what I experienced myself.
I’m not sure why I wrote it. I don’t believe it was at the recommendation of anyone. I just felt like I should. I don’t remember asking anyone else if they wrote about the shooting, and I don’t think I ever told anyone that I did.
The part of the account that affects me most deeply now, is the depth of the horror that I must have felt. Only that, I feel, accounts for my feeling of being split in two, just as I imagine someone who has multiple personality disorder might feel.
The boy that my fellow teacher and I assisted did survive. I met his mother years later and we shared a hug. I have not seen him. Our group has met other survivors, both children and adults, and we know that many still avoid any recollections from that day.”
July 31, 2018
The Needs List was compiled during the month that followed the shooting. It was meant to communicate both to school and district administration what we felt the school’s needs were.
As I said in the email, there was not much information available to anybody on how to deal with such a horrible situation. So it should be no surprise that though the district and school administration were doing what they felt was best, some things weren’t working for the students, teachers or support staff.
In looking back, I also think it was important for us to take back a sense that we had some control over what happened to us. That sense of control had been ripped away and so we took steps to get it back.
If I remember correctly, the school and district administrators did everything on the list that was possible for them to do. Some things were not possible to provide because there were no resources to provide them. For example, at that time, Hmong, Cambodian, or Vietnamese counselors or child psychologists were almost nonexistent.
July 31, 2018
On January 17, 1989, Patrick Purdy, assault rifle in hand, walked into the schoolyard at Cleveland Elementary School where he opened fire on children ages six to nine. In under five minutes, he shot and killed five children of Southeast Asian Refugees and wounded thirty-two and one teacher before turning the gun on himself.
Purdy, a drifter and former welder, carved the words “victory,” “freedom,” and “Hezbollah” into his AK-47's stock. He wore a flak jacket under a camouflage shirt jacket that bore other words, one misspelled: "PLO," "Libya," "death to the Great Satin."
The day after the shooting, classes were in session. And “overnight, workmen patched the 60 or so bullet holes in the south wall of the brown stucco building and scrubbed out bloodstains. But only about a quarter of the 970 pupils showed up.” Grief counselors, medical professionals, and translators were on school grounds the next day to assist parents and children. The children were encouraged to draw pictures as a way to express what they witnessed. Janet Geng, a teacher wounded in the attack in the yard, notes so deftly in an LA Times article that “‘To kids school is a safe place, but I guess it's not anymore. . . . These kids, they are little and they just don't understand.’”