Marshall County students recognized for bravery during deadly school shooting

MARSHALL COUNTY, KY — In less than a week, 16-year-old Gracie Steffen and two other students will accept the 911 Hero Award.

The award is typically given to one person each year. But this year it’s going to the entire student body at Marshall County High School, recognizing them for their bravery during January’s deadly school shooting.

Steffen, a sophomore at the time, recalls the moments after one student went on a shooting rampage in the high school commons area. “I need to run faster, or I’m going to die,” says Steffen. “That’s the one thing I remember the most.”

Another thing Steffen says she remembers is the student accused of pulling the trigger. “Whenever I looked over and saw the shooter, I only looked at him for a few seconds before I started to run yet my mind kind of pin-pointed every single detail,” she says. “I don’t get how I did that. I could even describe the gun to the FBI agent; that’s how much I remembered.”

It’s that memory that has people calling Steffen a hero. While taking cover in the weightlifting room, she spotted the shooting suspect blending in with other students. Steffen told a teacher who then contacted law enforcement to arrest the suspect.

LaDonna Coriell credits Steffen for saving several lives that day. “Without her ability to just step up and do what she did, it frightens me to think of what could have happened in that weight room, because there were a lot of kids in there,” she says.

Coriell is the director of Marshall County E-911. She’s the one who nominated the student body for the 911 Hero Award.

“This award doesn’t make everything go away,” says Coriell. “That’s just a part of who we are now, that we’ve gone through this experience. But at the same time, this award lets those kids know how valuable they truly are.”

Coriell finally got to meet her hero, Steffen, on Wednesday, more than seven months after the shooting.

Steffen says she doesn’t see herself as a hero. “I just see myself as what I did,” she says. “It’s just what I felt should have been done in that moment because I thought it my head, ‘Yo, if I don’t tell anyone, then what’s the chance that he’s not going to do something else.'”

Steffen says she is still dealing with some anxiety, especially when it comes to loud noises. But talking about the shooting and sharing her feelings, she says, is helping her cope with what happened.

“I found that church really helps with me,” says Steffen. “It really kind of helped me let go of things and forgive the shooter for what he did.”

Steffen will head to Louisville on Tuesday for the Kentucky Emergency Services Conference where she, along with two other MCHS students, will accept the 911 Hero Award on behalf of the entire Marshall County High School student body.