The classroom’s lights were shut off and its doors were locked following the alert on the intercom. Poster boards covered the room’s windows, as the students inside crouched under desks, murmuring voices of panic and confusion.
After 30 minutes of what at first seemed like an unannounced routine lockdown drill, it was confirmed there was a gunman inside Parkrose High School.
“It was really scary,” sophomore Jonah Eades said. “That’s the only time in my life that I ever genuinely thought that this might be the day that I die.”
On Friday, May 17, a student walked into the school’s fine arts building with a loaded shotgun.
What had the potential of becoming a horrific situation was halted when Parkrose football coach and security guard, Keanon Lowe, jumped in front of the student and wrestled the gun away before anyone could be injured.
“This is a story that usually ends in tragedy and from God’s will this ended up well,” Lowe told reporters at a media conference prior to Game 4 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at the Moda Center in Portland.
Two weeks removed from the incident, students and friends of Lowe say the split-second act of selflessness not only saved lives but was nothing out of the ordinary for the former standout Oregon wide receiver.
“I’m not surprised at all just because as he gets older and as he matures, he’s coming into the person that we already knew he was,” Lowe’s former Oregon teammate Derrick Malone said. “It’s a very scary world but to put your life on the line for the betterment of your community is outstanding.”
The morning of that Friday, Lowe was called to a classroom in the FAB to bring a student to administration — a normality as the school’s security guard. Just feet away from the room’s door, and just seconds from when he had entered through it, a barrel of a shotgun appeared in the doorway.
“In a fraction of a second, I analyzed everything really fast and I saw the look in his face, looked in his eyes and looked at the gun and realized it was a real gun and my instincts just took over,” Lowe said at the press conference.
Lowe lunged toward the gunman, attempting to avoid aiming the gun toward students who either fled the building or hid in fear.
“Everyone just kind of froze,” said sophomore Alexa Ramirez, who was in the classroom across the hall. “I just was like, ‘Is this real right now?’ Everything was rushing through my head. Like the stuff you see on TV, that was happening, and it was just a really scary feeling.”
The situation comes seven months after Lowe led Parkrose football to its first playoff berth in four years during his first year as head coach. Sophomore wide receiver and defensive back Jordi Delamora said that in every practice Lowe emphasized selflessness and loyalty, teaching athletes to always put the team before themselves.
Because of this, when word got out that a staff member had risked his life in order to restrain the gunman, Delamora said most students assumed it was Lowe.
“He turned something that could have been very bad into something that was as if it never happened,” Delamora said. “It made me feel grateful that we have someone like him around, because knowing him, he would have sacrificed his life to help us.”
In the few interviews Lowe has given since that day, he has expressed he doesn’t consider himself a hero. While he believes he was placed in that classroom at that moment for the reason of stopping the gunman, students of Parkrose can’t help but express their praise for the staff member who risked his own life for theirs.
“It was a really noble thing to do,” Ramirez said. “He doesn’t know all of us individually, but just knowing that he cares about us that much that he’s willing to put his life on the line for us is crazy. Every time I see him now, I’m just like ‘There is the guy that saved us.’”
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni