A Shadow in the Hallways

St. Scholastica's Student Newspaper
The Cable
By: Erik Bergholm - Student Journalist -
Photo credit to wsoctv.com

Photo credit to wsoctv.com

Why did the Pennsylvania school stabbing happen?

It was the groggy beginning of a new school day at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. Students milled through the hallways, working their way to morning classes. But suddenly all sleep was wiped from their faces as screams were heard, followed by a mass of students rushing away from something-or someone.

What was happening? A fist fight, as one student thought at first? Or did someone have a gun? A slash of a bloody blade revealed the truth, as one student was viciously stabbed in the gut. The blade-one of two 8-inch kitchen knives wielded by the attacker-found more targets as he ran down the hallways, slashing at whoever came too close, including a security guard. But the rampage did not last long. 60 year old assistant principal Samuel King, who came upon the attacker, rushed him and pinned him to the ground, with the help of another boy. After five minutes of brutality, it was over.

Of the 1,200 or so children at Franklin Regional High, 23 were injured, not including the security guard. Four were in critical condition following the attack. Thankfully, no one was killed. However, some of the injuries were severe. One boy suffered a stab wound that punctured his liver, diaphragm, and several major blood vessels, just missing his heart and aorta.

The attacker, 16 year old Alex Hribal, a sophomore at the school, is in custody. Police are still searching for a motive. In most cases like this, as in mass shootings, the attacker has often been a victim himself, a victim of bullying and constant harassment. As far as authorities know at the time I write this, that may not be the case. "I know the issue of bullying has been brought up but his attorney has even said ... that bullying is not part of this and we have no evidence or reason to believe that it is," said Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld, according to Fox News.

What could have made this child lash out the way he did, if not bullying? The boy-small, pale-skinned, and slender-was described by classmates as being very quiet and shy. He was also described as being a nice kid. Nice, but mostly a "shadow in the hallways," as classmate Kaitlyn Pepper told USA Today, perhaps unnoticed by the majority of his peers. Did this feeling of invisibility have something to do with it? Perhaps, but it had to have been something at a deeper level.

During the attack, Hribal had a blank look on his face, bereft of what one would expect to be there. There was no anger, hate, or anything of the sort. Just that same blank stare. After being placed into custody, he said something to the effect of "I just want to die."

Hribal, who was apparently raised in a very close, loving family, was not the kind of person a casual observer would label as a potential killer. Pending a psychological review, the exact nature of his mental illness-whatever that may be-is unknown. The "shadow in the hallway" is still obscured by mystery.