In the wake of the Umpqua Community College shootings Thursday, most in the U.S. believe this is an unprecedented epidemic; however, looking back, these horrific incidents can be traced all the way back to the 18th century when the first such attack took place.
In the historical novel Never Come to Peace Again: Pontiac’s Uprising and the Fate of the British Empire in North America, author David Dixon recounts the first known deadly school shooting in U.S. history. On July 26, 1764, Delaware (Lenape) American Indian fighters entered a schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Pennsylvania, where they shot and killed the schoolmaster and 10 children, though reports vary. Only one child survived the massacre.
Since then, mass murders at schools have increased through the centuries. Here is a list of the five deadliest school shootings in American history. (Deaths don’t include the perpetrators)
Bath School Disaster (1927) – 44 dead
Even though it is not a shooting, what is known as the Bath School disaster is the deadliest school massacre of all time. On May 18, 1927, 55-year-old school treasurer Andrew Kehoe — angry about tax increases and a failed election bid for township clerk — killed his wife, who was sick with tuberculosis, and set his farm on fire.
Then he went to the Bath Consolidated School and attacked it with a bomb killing 38 elementary-aged school children and six adults. The explosion — described by a teacher as an earthquake — also injured 58 others. Kehoe took his own life with one last bomb placed in his car.
Virginia Tech Massacre (2007) – 32 dead
The Virginia Tech massacre is the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, and one of the deadliest ever worldwide.
In two separate attacks, a senior at Virginia Tech, Seung-Hui Cho, shot and killed 32 people, wounding 17 others. Six others were injured when they tried to escape the school shooting from their classroom windows. The attacks happened between 7:15 a.m. and 9 a.m. eastern time, starting at Ambler Johnston Hall and moving to Norris Hall. Cho committed suicide.
Sandy Hook Elementary shooting (2012) – 26 dead
One of the most devastating massacres in U.S. history took place at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, just a few days before Christmas, on December 14, 2012. The gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, killed 20 children and six adults during the deadly school shooting and later killed himself with a gunshot to the head.
The young age of the children killed and the fact that the adults died trying to protect their students made the Sandy Hook shooting one of the most traumatic mass shootings in U.S. history. Most of the dead were first grade students who were hiding in their classrooms, and others were shot by Lanza as they ran away.
University of Texas massacre (1966) – 14 dead
On August 1, 1966, former Marine Charles Whitman came to the University of Texas in Austin — where he was an architectural engineering student — with shotguns, handguns, and rifles. He shot and killed three people near the university’s Tower and randomly fired on those walking around campus from the 28th floor of the main building.
Whitman, who was shot and killed by Austin police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy, also wounded 32 others during the deadly school shooting. Earlier in the day the gunman murdered his mother and wife. This was one of the first shootings of its kind to be broadcast on television.
Columbine High School massacre (1999) – 13 dead
One of the deadliest school shootings, the Columbine High School massacre claimed the lives of 13 people in Littleton, Colorado. On April 20, 1999, two gunmen — senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold — went on a shooting rampage inside different school rooms including the cafeteria and library, killing 12 students and one teacher, and wounding 21 others.
In journals found by police later on, the gunmen claimed their actions attempted to emulate the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Harris and Klebold killed themselves.
Unfortunately, this week yet another deadly school shooting took place in Oregon, and a quiet community in the Pacific Northwest is now dealing with the aftermath of multiple people killed and all the questions that surround such a tragedy. The perpetrator in the Umpqua school shooting allegedly asked his victims their religion and, depending on their answer, shot them dead or injured them.
[Photo by John Moore/Getty Images]