SUZANO, Brazil – “Where do I get official information?” shouted a young man in the neighborhood of the Raul Brasil state school, in the peaceful city of Suzano, where on Wednesday one of the worst school tragedies in Brazil’s history occurred.
The tranquility of this city of about 270,000 inhabitants was disturbed after two former students opened fire at the public high school Raul Brazil and killing at least eight and injuring a dozen. The two shooters also died, apparently after committing suicide.
While journalists gathered on the outskirts of the school waiting for information, several neighbors, relatives, and residents of this town, 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Sao Paulo, were looking for news about the hundreds of students who were still inside the school.
In the midst of the turmoil generated by the media and the hurried steps of rescue agents and security forces, dozens of people were trying to obtain any information about the nearly 400 students and teachers who were in the school at the time of the attack.
The worst fears of at least 8 families were confirmed as authorities announced that two assailants, a 17-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man, had entered the school heavily armed and started shooting indiscriminately.
Among the dead are five students and two school employees, in addition to a local businessman and the two assassins, who allegedly committed suicide in the corridors of the school minutes after the arrival of police.
On the sidewalks, the climate of confusion prevailed. “My friend has died,” repeated Diogo da Silva, aged 17, whose best friend did perished from gunshot wounds.
“This is our year of graduation, which we are never supposed to forget, and now he is dead,” said the student, who escaped the shooting because he jumped over the school’s walls.
Some survivors of the center, which brings together students from 11 to 17 years, have told EFE that the shooting lasted between 15 and 20 minutes and that, in addition to a revolver, the assassins also carried knives and a bow and arrows.
“We were eating in the patio, talking, and suddenly we heard the shots. We left everything behind and ran, some to the canteen, others to the bathrooms,” said Kelly Milene Guerra Cardoso, aged 16.
The girl took refuge in the kitchen together with some of her classmates, where they began to call the police, emergency services and their families.
While inside the school hundreds of students, teachers and workers tried to escape the sight of the shooters, from outside alarmed neighbors did their best to help those who managed to jump over the walls, cross doors or escape through alternative exits.
“I have seen two bodies in a doorway (...) I saw many children jumping over the wall, running desperately in the street. Many were hurt when jumping the walls, those who tried to go out the door, died,” Ana Paula Radiante, who lives next to the education center, described in shock.
Another neighbor, Juliana Romera, opened the doors of her house to welcome some children who stood terrified outside the school.
“I closed the door right away because I heard shots,” explained the woman, former student of the school and who regrets “not being able to do anything” for the children.
Eight hours after the tragedy, the surroundings of Otavio Miguel da Silva Street, located in the residential neighborhood of Parque Suzano, were still cordoned off.
The black doors of the school were still closed and outside its imposing walls, about 3 meters high, dozens of residents who remained determined to lend their solidarity to the victims gathered.
“While I was hiding from the gunfire, I was thinking only of my four-year-old son. He studies at another school (...) We think that our children are safe inside the schools, but one can never really know,” summarizes Rosemine Perella, the institution’s geography teacher, who came out of the tragedy unscathed.