CHARDON, Ohio - When a student injured in a northeast Ohio high school shooting returned to classes last week, he was greeted by balloons, with one escaping and hitting the ceiling with a pop.
The noise made his schoolmates stop cold. Fellow student Travis Carver tells The Plain Dealer "there was just an utter silence in the whole school."
Loud noises still fill students with fear weeks after the Feb. 27 shooting that killed three teens, seriously injured two others, and left one facing aggravated murder charges.
"I think it puts a constant reminder in the back of your head," said Carver, 16. "When you hear something loud ... it brings you back to that time and it kind of scares you ... until you realize what somebody did -- like popped a balloon or popped a bag."
Carver and cafeteria worker Cherie Reed told the newspaper about their ordeal the day of the shooting. They describe hearing gunshots and seeing the shooter and trying to help a girl who had been shot while hiding behind a locked kitchen door with about 35 others.
Police say 17-year-old T.J. Lane, opened fire in the school's cafeteria, though the motive remains unclear. The charges filed against him include three counts of aggravated murder and two counts of attempted aggravated murder.
"I saw him. I saw him take two shots," Reed said, saying the shooter was about 30 feet away. She heard someone cry, 'Oh my God, he's got a gun.'
"That's when I screamed for all the kids to come in," she said.
One girl fell as she ran but picked herself up and made it in. She had been shot in the lower back.
Reed placed towels and pressure on her wound.
"I was shaking, but when he came over and started helping then I calmed down," she said, referring to Carver.
He also had run into the room after seeing the gunman and hearing three or four shots.
"There was no hysterics; they were just crying and texting on their phones," Reed said.
Carver said his calmness helped others people feel calm as well.
"I know it was bad, but you had to think about what needed to be done just so you would help yourself and help other people," he said, "at least that's what I was thinking."
Before the shooting, Carver and Lane both were at Chardon High waiting for a bus to take them to different schools, Lane to an alternative school and Carver to a career center. Carver went to the cafeteria breakfast line to get a drink and talked to some friends.
"It was a normal day," Carver said. "Then it wasn't so normal of a day anymore."
Reed had blood on her clothes when she went home.
"I didn't sleep for weeks," she said. "It's just now hitting me emotionally."
She said students were quiet when they first returned after the shooting and didn't eat much, but seem to be rebounding.
"I think they're getting back to normal as best they can," she said.