Talking about the truth: STEM School Highlands Ranch Shooting Victims


Banner at University of North Carolina who experienced a shooting days before the one at STEM (from UNC)

Context: Due to the recent events in Nashville, The Hilltopper had an opportunity to interview 2 victims from the STEM Highlands Ranch school shooting.  

In 2019, a school in Colorado was given the trauma of bullets being shot throughout the school.

STEM High School Highlands Ranch was changed on May 7 when 2 gunmen entered the school. 1 student died and 8 others were injured that day. With that, many have mental injuries that are hard to forget about.

Hannah Nikolaev, a victim of the Highlands Ranch shooting, spoke about her story. She was 12-years-old at the time, she is now 16 and still remembering that day. “Without thinking every single one of us ran to the corner the same way that was drilled into us the moment we started kindergarten.”

Every single year, schools in the United States do lockdown drills to prepare students. Schools never know if they are the next one to build trauma. Nikolaev didn’t know that a small school like STEM was going to be the next group of victims.

“You’d never think it would happen to you— I certainly didn’t. I told myself it’s a tiny charter school full of science kids in suburban Highlands Ranch, yet it did,” she said.

Tyler Horlacher, freshman during the time of the shooting, talked about the things that happened that day very vividly. 

“We had a security guard who was armed who shot at the barrel of a gun coming around the corner (which turned out to be the police) which injured 2 innocent kids,” Horlacher said. It was a situation that put everyone in danger, kids, police, teachers, and security guards.

Going through the battle of a school shooting leaves a mental injury in everyone in the building. Fighting through the worry that you feel in the moment is something no one should have to go through, but dealing with losing your happiness after a day at school is something just as hard.

“The kid I was on May 7 died that day and I left her in the school, which has been hard to grieve for myself. I also lost a friend in the shooting. Hearing his mother cry was really hard. After we had gotten out, my friend came running up to me to hug me, and his shirt was covered in blood. I wasn’t reunited with my sister and couldn’t contact her until 5 hours after the shooting— I thought she had died,” Horlacher said.

People never know what is going to happen next on a day like that. What they can hope for is for no one else to ever feel the pain that they felt. It keeps happening to different schools all over the United States daily.

“It’s infuriating to feel like all of the trauma is just that, trauma. it lends to nothing anymore. Most don’t even know about stem or the other 99.99% of shootings. And that’s the worst part, the fact that they happen every day,” Nikolaev said.