MANCHESTER, NH – Yolanda Quirindongo wrapped her arms around her daughter, Abigail, as the two found each other on the sidewalk outside Hillside Middle School at about 10 p.m on Friday.
“I’m an emotional mama,” said Quirindongo.
Like mother like daughter. Abigail wiped some unexpected tears from her eyes as the two hugged. They had been separated by the time and space of a tense situation that unfolded Friday a few blocks from Central High School, where Abigail, 14, is a freshman.
“I mostly listened to music, and we played some games and braided each other’s hair,” said Abigail, when asked how she passed the time during a “secure campus” situation at the high school.
Police made the decision to not release students at the usual dismissal time from school due to a “tedious search” taking place in the area of Maple and Hanover streets following a shooting Friday not far from the school. The search ended up to be fruitless.
Police were searching for a shooter, identified by police as Paul Dimick, who is still at large and wanted for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Jason Lee at about 11 a.m. on Sept. 7.
Below, scenes from Hillside Middle School student pick-up.
Abigail said police were present as students inside the school changed classes and were ultimately held in their next-to-last class of the day.
“We had wraps with two pieces of ham and a small bottle of water,” Abigail said, of provisions brought to the school to tide students over as they waited for about five hours beyond the dismissal bell before they were bussed to Hillside Middle School beginning at about 8:15 p.m. Her mother said she spent much of the day huddled not far from the high school, talking with other parents and trying to figure out what was going on and when the students would be released.
The scene at Hillside was chaotic, and punctuated by a traffic jam of cars, police vehicles and busses. In front of the school a throng of parents lined up waiting to hear their child’s name called in a systematic release that was eventually abandoned by school officials, as the process appeared to be confusion and inefficient.
Most parents appeared calm – and appreciative – of school protocols followed, and precautionary measures by police that led to the unusual circumstances that brought them all together outside the middle school so late on a Friday night. At about 8:45 p.m. a school official stepped outside Hillside to inform parents that students who rode STS buses (Easter Seals Special Transit Service) were sent home directly from Central, which added to some of the confusion for a faction of parents.
“I don’t know where my son is,” said one distraught mother who was visibly upset by the confusion. “There’s nobody at home – he texted me and said he’s on a bus, but I don’t know where he is.”
However, most of the parents we spoke to said they’d spent most of the day in communication with their children via phone, and were glad that all students were safe. At about 10 p.m. students who had been relegated to the gymnasium to wait poured from the building, using cell phones to find their parents who had been instructed to report to the middle school to reunite with their kids.
Blake Tyler, who was there as a guardian to pick up a student, said the school district evacuation plan could use some fine tuning, and said hopefully this incident will provide a learning experience going forward.
You can hear Tyler’s comments in the Facebook live clip below, beginning at the 16:16 minute mark.
Mayor Joyce Craig and husband, Mike, were among those parents who showed up at Hillside to search for their kids – their youngest daughter is a freshman at Central. Once reunited, Mike Craig went home with their daughter, while the mayor stayed at Hillside offering the use of her cell phone to parents and students whose cell phones had run out of juice.
Craig issued the following statement at 9:45 p.m.
I want to thank the men and women in the Manchester Police Department who worked throughout the day to ensure the safety of our community. I’d also like to thank the teachers, administrators, staff and students at Manchester Central High School for your patience during this long afternoon and evening. To the parents of CHS students and residents of the Manchester community, thank you for your understanding. I know I’ll be hugging my CHS freshman a little tighter tonight, as I’m sure hundreds of other parents will be as well.”
Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano during a brief press conference also thanked parents, students, and school staff for their patience during the nearly 12-hour ordeal. Although police deployed the Manchester SWAT team, which surrounded an apartment house on Hanover Street at about 1 p.m., in the end their target, Dimick, had fled the scene and was not in the residence.
Central varsity football player Emmanuel Munyanya was looking for his mom in front of the Hillside. Geared up in his Little Green No. 8 football jersey, Emmanuel, a running back, said the game against Central Little Green and Keene had been rescheduled for Sunday at Memorial High School field at 2 p.m.
“We’re off to a beautiful to be honest, actually,” Emmanuel said of the Little Green varsity team. “Keene’s going to be a good game,” he said – suddenly distracted by a big bear hug from his mom.