Fort Gibson Discovery: Algebra Book Stops Bullet

Wednesday, December 8th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Despite the pain, Fort Gibson feels over the shootings at the middle school, the emotion expressed in the past three days is gratitude. Relief that all of the victims survived.
Wednesday, Fort Gibson Schools found still another reason to be thankful.

In the panic following the shootings, many students left belongings behind as they rushed to leave school grounds. One backpack ended up thrown into the back of a teacher's pickup.

As things began returning to normal the third day after the shooting, Middle School Principal Greg Phares says a teacher asked to see him. "The teacher came down with a student and said, "I need to show you this," Phares explained. "He laid it down on the table and said, 'There's a bullet hole in this book bag.'" Phares called the student's parents and the police, who took the book bag as part of their investigation.

Police Chief Richard Slader says the bullet entered through a pocket, and continued through the front of a Pre-Algebra book. The book is thick, having over 700 pages.
The bullet is still inside, about halfway through the book. "I don't know exactly where it ends," said Slader. "We're going to let the lab take it out."

Slader said the student carried the bag over his right shoulder that day. That fact, and the student’s algebra homework may have saved his life. "Obviously, the way he wore the backpack prevented him from being shot in the back," he surmised. "This surely would've resulted in serious injury and maybe even death." Phares says his reaction was he had to reach over and hug that kid. "I was relieved," he said. "I was scared at the same time. I just had to thank God in heaven that nobody was killed."

He then laughed at what the teacher said to his student. "The teacher said, 'See? Math saved your life,'" he recalled. Phares and many others in Fort Gibson believe it was something else. Despite all the pain, they continue to say how lucky they feel that they didn't lose any children. "The good Lord had his angels out taking care of our kids that day," Phares said.