Gulfport High Principal Remembers School Massacre At Pearl

Published: Apr. 20, 2004 at 10:15 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2004 at 10:46 PM CDT
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Joel Myrick seems to know a lot of his students, even though he has only been principal of Gulfport High since December.

"I try to get out every chance I can and get out and see the kids."

Myrick makes it a point to talk to as many students as possible. He believes if he, or someone else, had reached out to Luke Woodham, the bloody rampage at Pearl High School seven years ago might not have happened.

"Luke Woodham walked in to the building and began to shoot the kids, and he had already killed his mother before he came to school."

Myrick, then assistant principal of Pearl High, watched in horror as Woodham fired shot after shot.

"It's like before you have a car accident, everything had closed down and gone into slow motion. It was a very terrible moment."

In the spray of bullets, two girls died and seven other students were wounded. Myrick knew he had to stop the massacre.

"I was able to go out to my vehicle and retrieve a handgun and then to chase him down and point it at him. I checked him for weapons and I asked him, I said, 'Why, why, why are you killing my kids?' He said the world had wronged him and he couldn't take it anymore."

What happened next changed Myrick's life forever.

"A police officer asked me who he was and I didn't recognize the young man. Then Luke, he turned around and looked at me and he said, "Oh Mr. Myrick you know me. I was the guy who gave you the discount on the pizza the other night.'"

Since that pivotal moment, Myrick vowed to build stronger relationships with his students and create a campus where they feel like they belong.

"The overall safety of the school, I think that really starts in your heart. It starts in your heart and moves right down to the kids, and they sense that."

Luke Woodham is currently serving two life sentences, plus 140 years at Parchman, for the stabbing death of his mother and the shooting rampage at Pearl High School.

by Trang Pham-Bui