Living only 272 steps from Deer Creek Middle School, thirteen-year-old Savannah has seen tragedy unfold right in her back yard.
On February 23, 2010, just as she was leaving school for the day with her twelve-year-old sister, Makayla, Savannah heard gunshots. Thank goodness David Benke was nearby.
In the days after the Deer Creek shooting, which injured students Reagan Weber and Matt Thieu, Savannah and her sister watched policemen comb their neighborhood for evidence, putting up yellow crime-scene tape and searching their yard. Back then, Savannah says, what happened at her school seemed like "a nightmare that wouldn't stop," an echoing reminder of the lethal events that had taken place at Columbine High School eleven years earlier.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Now, however, Savannah sees triumph where she once saw tragedy.
The difference is because of the heroism of one man: teacher Dr. David Benke. He tackled the accused shooter, Bruco Eastwood, and brought him to the ground, risking his life to protect the lives of his students. "Dr. Benke is a hero," Savannah says. "There's no way we can ever thank him for what he did... he saved us."
This sentiment is shared by the School Safety Advocacy Council, which is honoring Benke at theNational School Safety conference that begins today.
"If anyone deserves the spotlight, it's Dr. Benke," Savannah proclaims. "He's the reason why I still feel safe."