Bryce Maksel was just feet away from gunman Adam Lanza during the shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary School, but somehow managed to escape along with five others when Lanza looked away briefly.
The story of Maksel’s escape comes as one of the few bright points in an overwhelmingly tragic event. He was a student in teacher Victoria Soto’s class when Adam Lanza forced his way into the school and began killing kids and adults.
Lanza found his way to Bryce’s room, where Soto had hidden her students away and tried to keep the gunman away. Though Lanza killed several students and Soto, Bryce Maksel and several others somehow managed to escape, People noted.
Bryce was calm when he recounted the daring escape to police, his mother Jen Maksel said.
“He said [of gunman Adam Lanza], ‘He looked at all of us, then he turned around toward our teacher and all five of us ran,’ ” Jen Maksel said in an interview with People. “He said, ‘We just kept on running. We didn’t know when to stop.’ “
Though he was able to escape with his life, Bryce Maksel still bears the emotional scars of the school shooting, his mother says. Still, he has remained brave throughout, she added.
“He watched him shoot his teacher and his friends. At one point Bryce said to me, ‘Are you happy that I was brave, mom?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ “
Jen Maksel recounted a frenzied scene at Sandy Hook on the day of the shooting. She had just gone to sleep that morning after putting her kids on the bus when a neighbor pounded on the door yelling, “There’s a school shooting at Sandy Hook!”
She jumped in her car and headed to the school and found chaos, People noted.
“I parked on the side of the road and just ran to the firehouse,” she says. “Most of it is a blur because I was in total panic trying to find Bryce. Bryce’s friends’ mothers were there, too, doing the same thing. It was total chaos. I was crying hysterically.”
“They were lining the surviving kids up by class,” she added. “In Bryce’s class all I saw were five kids. I couldn’t stop crying because Bryce wasn’t one of them.”
But another mom soon told Jen that five kids who escaped were found running down the road a half mile from the school and taken to the Newtown Police Station. Jen called the station and learned that they did indeed have Bryce there.
“I burst into tears, grabbed Bryce and hugged him.” It was “bittersweet,” she says. “I was relieved I found him but I was worried about the other kids. We hadn’t heard yet who had died. Not knowing was hard but we were all focused on our kids. The parents were all embracing.”
Though it has been a difficult week as the family went to funerals for his teacher and some of his best friends, Bryce Maksel is doing much better, his mom says.