STOCKTON — Thirty years ago, a gunman opened fire at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton. Five young children were killed and dozens were injured.
“I remember thinking, ‘This can’t happen,’ you know? ‘My mom’s not here, my dad’s not here, I’m just a little boy,'” survivor Rob Young said.
The gunman, 34-year-old Patrick Purdy, not only claimed five lives that day, but he stole innocence.
“As soon as the sounds did start, we could see people running back off the playground towards us,” Anthony Beaty, who was a third grader at the time, told FOX40.
The men FOX40 spoke with were all younger than 8 years old when the shooting happened.
They each recall the gunshots.
“I saw one of the students got hit and he went down,” survivor Mike Vann said.
They still see kids crumpling to the ground.
“I remember there was a male teacher who was pulling as many kids as he can. They were stumbling, falling on top of each other and he was trying to do his best to protect the kids,” survivor Sam Leam said.
Leam says he tried to get to a classroom, but the door shut. Moments later, he felt pain in his left leg and right arm.
“I was by myself in the hallway with nobody around me and then I couldn’t walk,” Leam said.
Young was also injured. He was just 6 years old at the time.
“My feet went above my head and what had happened was a bullet entered my right foot and swept my feet out from under me and while I’m on the ground another round hit the pavement in front of me and bounced into my chest,” he said.
The shooting stopped, investigators say, when Purdy turned the gun on himself.
“We heard one last pop and that was the gunman killing himself,” Young said.
The impact of such a traumatic event has lasted for decades.
“And every single bullet, it hit not just only the victim but the entire community,” Vann said.
Young and Leam still have physical scars from that day.
“It’s a major wound that you don’t recover from,” Leam said. “You just have to learn to live with it and just do the best you can.”
Melissa Deverell contributed to this report.