When the gunfire began, sixth grader Nate Holley said he immediately froze.
Other students in his classroom burst into tears, he said on CNN.
A siren came on and his teacher moved the students behind her desk. Then the shots got closer, and they were in a closet.
"I had my hand on a metal baseball bat, just in case," Nate told CNN's Brooke Baldwin. "'Cuz I was gonna go down fighting if I was gonna go down."
Baldwin, nearly speechless by the remark, held her hands up and could only repeat what she had just heard.
"Nate, and again, how old are you?" she then asked.
"I'm 12 and a – I'm 12," the middle schooler said.
The exchange after the shooting Tuesday at STEM School Highlands Ranch, which left one student dead and eight others wounded, stunned many on social media who say it highlights the shocking reality young children must face with the threat of active shooters in schools today.
“I had my hands on a metal baseball bat just in case cuz I was gonna go down fighting if i was gonna go down”: Nate Holley, 12 yrs old. We failed Nate, his schoolmates and all the victims & survivors of school shootings-just as we will have failed the kids who are next to die pic.twitter.com/hukupISg6a— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) May 8, 2019
12-year-old Nate Holley, who survived #HighlandsRanch #STEMShooting, just told @CNN that he had a baseball bat in his hands during attack, prepared "to go down fighting." This is so wrong! Children should not have to be thinking about going down with a fight! #GenerationLockdown— Louis Klarevas (@Klarevas) May 8, 2019
Nate Holley, a 12 year old boy who had to witness the horror of a school shooting, said...”I had my hands on a metal baseball bat, just in case, cuz I was going to go down fighting if I was gonna go down.”— Michael Young (@MikeyY626) May 9, 2019
Innocence shouldn’t collide wih a need for that bravery at 12 yrs old.
A 6th grader named Nate Holley, who is 12, but seems impossibly young, just described how he was hanging onto a metal baseball bat in a closet because there were shooters outside the door of his classroom, and if he was going to go down, he he was going to go down fighting.— Molly McKew (@MollyMcKew) May 8, 2019
“I was going to go down fighting if I was going to go down.” 12 year old Nate Holley. Survivor of our latest national tragedy. Is this what we’ve become? A nation that relies on our children to lay down their lives for one another as we do nothing? Not ok. https://t.co/pY02iIihP8— Amanda Dickerson (@doctordickerson) May 9, 2019
Nate was not alone in wanting to fight as a number of heroes have emerged in recent weeks after active shooter situations.
Kendrick Castillo, 18, died as he lunged toward a gunman at Nate's school. His classmates say his sacrifice allowed them to hide or flee and saved many lives.
His father John Castillo told media outlets that when he and Kendrick talked about what he would do if there were an active shooter, Kendrick said he would act.
"You don't have to be the hero," Castillo told NBC he would advise his son. But Kendrick would reply, "You raised me this way. You raised me to be a good person. That’s what I’m doing."
Other students, including Brendan Bialy, an aspiring Marine, helped tackle the shooter to the ground in Colorado.
In North Carolina, Riley Howell, 21, lost his life when he charged a gunman who burst last week into a University of North Carolina-Charlotte lecture room carrying a pistol.
And Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, died as she stood in front of the rabbi at Chabad of Poway, a synagogue near San Diego, late last month to prevent others from being killed.
"You know, our life is all we've got," Frank Farley, a psychology professor at Temple University who has studied heroism, told USA TODAY earlier this week. "To put it on the line or take risks where you can lose your life for others is an astounding and profound human behavior."
Contributing: Joey Garrison and Susan Miller, USA TODAY. Follow Ryan W. Miller on Twitter: @RyanW_Miller
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: A 12-year-old grabbed a bat and 'was gonna go down fighting' in Colorado school shooting