Teaching through tragedy


Officer recalls experience during crisis


John Barnes has a hard time talking about one of the recent era’s tragic events.

But knowing that his experience can help makes it a lot easier.

Barnes was a police officer at Santa Fe High School during the mass shooting that claimed 10 lives and wounded 10 others on May 18, 2018.

“I think it would be a missed opportunity if I never spoke to anyone,” Barnes said. “The point of all of this is that we learn from tragedies. I’m hoping that people can learn, take something away from that.”

His appearance came just days after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio shook the nation.

Barnes’ most pertinent advice when it comes to shootings: keep breathing and think about surviving.

“I was thinking about living,” he said. “My concentration was on my breathing and trying to calm myself down. That was my total concentration, trying to survive. I keep telling myself that as long as I’m breathing, I’m living.”

Chris Ayala, the Fredericksburg Independent School District Liaison Officer with the Fredericksburg Police Department, set up Barnes’ appearance at the school district’s opening convocation for the 2019-20 school year Monday at FHS Auditorium.

He invited Barnes to show teachers that potential shooter scenarios are real and can happen in a moment’s notice.

“Sometimes the teachers just don’t grasp the reality of the situation that they can find themselves in,” Ayala said. “That’s what it comes down to. John puts the reality into perspective, for me. The other thing is the emotion John can give to them. He can give it to them as a person who’s experienced a school shooting.

“The biggest thing is I can tell them, but somebody who’s been there, they’re going to listen to. That’s why it was a great opener.”

Barnes fought back tears while describing how the events unfolded at Santa Fe High School and his struggle to survive from his gunshot wounds.

Three buckshot slugs went into his arm and tore an artery.

He flatlined twice from the wound in his arm and stayed in Houstonarea hospitals for 33 days.

“There was about a one in six percent chance of me leaving the hospital,” Barnes said. “The Life Flight nurse who worked on me said he’s been a nurse for 30 years and I’m only the second person he’s worked on who’s made that. I’m extremely thankful for that.”