Lee Guidry stood over the copy machine on a Monday morning this past January as he attempted to print some last-minute materials for his lesson plan. The middle school teacher was frustrated because the machine was not working properly and worried he would be late for his class.
Suddenly, he heard a popping sound. Guidry initially figured a student was lighting firecrackers outside until the sound of screams filled the hallways of Italy High School. Standing by the window next to the cafeteria, he rolled up the blinds.
“That’s when I saw it,” he said.
As crowds of students raced out of the cafeteria, he saw freshman Noelle Jones stumbling to make her way out of the cafeteria. Sophomore Chad Padilla stalked her as he continued to fire shots at her from a handgun. Without hesitation, Guidry ran out of the room towards Jones and Padilla until he made his way into a breezeway between the cafeteria and another academic building.
There he found Jones collapsed on the ground with Padilla standing over her.
The door behind Guidry immediately locked due to the school lockdown protocol. The three were now at a dead end and Guidry was face-to-face with the school shooter.
SAGU alumnus Guidry began working for Italy Independent School District (ISD) approximately five years ago where he now teaches Math and English Language Arts in the Special Education Department for the 7th and 8th grade. Guidry also teaches Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary for both middle school and high school.
The CAP is an Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and CAP cadets receive the opportunity to perform aerospace-related tasks and emergency services. As an Air Force Veteran, Guidry was familiar with the Civil Air Patrol and started the program from scratch when he first began teaching at Italy in 2014.
Among his cadets for 2017-2018 school year was freshman Noelle Jones. The day of the shooting was Noelle Jones’ first day on the Civil Air Patrol and her first day in uniform. This was also the day she was to earn her stripes.
Guidry locked eyes with Padilla as Jones laid on the ground.
The 16-year old eyes were glazed over as if he was in a trance.
“It was like he was physically there… but not really there,” says Guidry.
Completely unarmed, Guidry attempted to calm him down as the barrel of Padilla’s handgun continued to point at Jones.
“I told him, ‘Chad, you need to calm down. I need you to back away from her. We’re gonna figure this all out but I need you to just back away.”
“I need you to calm down and back away,” he said once more.
“Chad-calm down and back away.”
On the third attempt, something snapped within Padilla. His lifeless expression was gone. He turned and jumped over the fence leaving Guidry and Jones in the breezeway.
Guidry immediately knelt down and started applying pressure to the gunshot wounds of Jones as she continued to fade in and out of consciousness. One of the moments she came to, she said to Guidry, “I don’t want to die, please don’t let me die.”
The school nurse ran towards the two in the breezeway and together, she and Guidry administered first aid prior to the paramedics' arrival. Jones was then airlifted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.
Jones was shot six times that day. Miraculously, none of her major organs were hit during the shooting.
The next day as Jones laid in her hospital bed, Guidry paid her a visit. He pinned the stripes she was supposed to earn the previous day on her hospital gown. He told her, “You know, you can’t get away from me. You’re gonna get your stripes pinned on.”
Almost one year has passed since the shooting and Jones is alive thanks to the heroic actions of her CAP Commander. She continues to walk the halls of Italy High School as a straight-A student motivated to live life to the fullest with hopes to eventually be a voice for survivors of school shootings. According to CBS News, she still suffers from a fractured pelvis, nerve damage, and a bruised liver-reminders of how her life was almost tragically lost this past January.
Looking back on that day, Guidry considers two major influences in his life—two things that matter the most to him—that caused him to prioritize the life of Noelle Jones over even his own well-being. Guidry is a father with a son and a daughter of his very own. “I don’t know if it was the father in me—because looking back, I remember that going through my head—’that could be my daughter’ and I just ran,” he says.
The second major influence on Guidry’s actions was his faith.
“I’ll tell you, I am not a brave person,” says Guidry. “I am scared of snakes. A scary movie gets me. Sometimes students like to jump around the corner and scare me. I scare real easy. But that morning, when I looked out that window and saw the gunman standing over her, something in me just snapped. I just knew I had to get there and danger wasn’t on my mind.”
“God did not allow me to have fear that day. He needed me without fear for the situation. And I think that’s where my faith played the biggest part. He took that fear out of me.”
Guidry understands that the copy room was right where God wanted him. If the copy machine had worked properly, Guidry would have walked out of that room unable to get to Jones in time. Everything happened in God’s timing. “I would not have been exactly where I needed to be,” he says. “I believe that was Providence, a divine appointment, whatever you want to call it. I believe I was supposed to be there that day.”
Guidry’s faith is also evident in the way he interacts with his students every day. He makes an effort to invest in the lives of all of his students and cadets demonstrating Christ’s love in and out of the classroom.
“If I wasn’t a Christian, if I had no faith in God, I naturally would not be like that. But it’s because I love God, because I’ve seen what he’s done in my life, I try to show that love to others.”
Guidry's commitment to showing love and care to students of Italy Middle School and High School included Chad Padilla, the school shooter. When Padilla was a student, Guidry made an effort to reach out to him every day and ask how he was doing. Padilla never gave much of a response, but Guidry continued to ask him every day.
Guidry believes that the efforts he made as a teacher to show he cared about Padilla affected the teenager’s actions when the two were face-to-face in the breezeway that morning in January. It occurred to him months later during crisis counseling. Guidry said that his counselor told him, “You showed him Christian love your whole time at that school. And when you ran out there to confront him, he saw the one person who has ever shown him Christian love at that school. You showing him Christian love is what saved you that day."