Former Heath High School principal shares memories of the day of the shooting

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY – The first school shooting Bill Bond even thought about, he was standing in the middle of.

Bill Bond sits down with Local 6’s Jennifer Horbelt for what he said will likely be his last television interview.

Bond was the principal of Heath High School when the shooting happened 20 years ago. For 15 years, he traveled the country, speaking to principals, teachers, and law enforcement about school shooting preparedness at schools and conferences. If there was a school shooting, he went immediately, to help in a way only he knew how.

He’s retired today, enjoying the quiet life. Bond agreed to speak with us for what he said is likely his last television interview about a day he carries with him, always.

Two decades after the horror of the Heath High School shooting, Bond still hears it.

“You know, that’s one thing that stays with you forever is the rhythm of those gunshots,” Bond said. “You know, the pow, pow, pow.”

In just 12 seconds, three lives were taken.

Does Bond think about the life he may not have had, had the shooter turned the gun on him? No, he doesn’t.

Three girls died 20 years ago after they were shot in Heath High School’s front lobby during a prayer group: Nicole Hadley, Kayce Steger, and Jessica James.

“I’ve thought about the life of those girls. Nicole, and Steger, and Jessica,” Bond said. “I’ve thought about the life they don’t have.”

That morning, Bond was on the phone when the gunshots started. He left his office. He remembers walking toward the shooter.

“It’s a strange feeling to be going toward something that everyone is running, I mean, they’re running,” Bond said.

He was there for what would be one of the first school shootings of its kind.

“I mean, I had never, that had never crossed my mind. I mean, it had, in my whole life, it had never crossed my mind,” Bond said. “Now, there’s not a high school principal in the nation that doesn’t, it doesn’t flick in his mind sometime every day.”

Bond is retired today. He doesn’t do media interviews anymore, if he can help it, but Heath High School is always there, in the back of his mind. It’s part of him.

Missy Jenkins Smith shared this image of a special quilt that was made for her after the shooting, with the words “We Believe In Heath” embroidered onto the front.

In his closet, he keeps a basket of cards, letters, and newspaper clippings.

“I’ve never looked at them, but I don’t throw them away,” Bond explained.

Bond said the tragedy of what happened at Heath is still palpable, but so is the triumph of a community that believed in the ability of Heath to heal.

“The teachers that were there were committed to those kids, and the kids were committed to each other, and no one walked away,” Bond said.

 

 

Bill Bond on Michael Carneal:

 

Bill Bond recalls the morning of Dec. 1, 1997 and the Heath High School shooting:

Bill Bond on the strength of the community:

Bill Bond recalls visiting Missy Jenkins in the hospital after the shooting: