Melissa Joan Hart elaborates on encountering kindergarteners, teachers escaping school shooting on highway: 'It's really quickly dawning on me this is not a fire drill'
Nashville resident Melissa Joan Hart opened up further on Wednesday, on her What Women Binge podcast, about her close proximity to the shooting at the Covenant School, which left three 9-year-old students and three teachers dead.
"And all of the sudden I saw a bunch of — this is the part I'll never forget — a teacher coming out with no abandonment, just walking into the street, stopping traffic and, all of the sudden, all these tiny children going by, and she's just trying to get them by," Hart said. "The look on her face just changed my life."
The former Clarissa Explains It All star had revealed on social media Tuesday that she and her husband, Mark Wilkerson, had been on their way to a parent-teacher conference at a nearby campus the day before, when they saw the group crossing the road. They're the parents of three sons, including 10-year-old Tucker; Brayden, 15; and Mason, 17.
"I was trying to understand what she's doing," Hart said. "Why is she taking these children on this five-lane street? What is she doing? What is her purpose? And then I'm looking and I realize, she's coming out of the woods. Something's wrong. And then I’m thinking back to the helicopter and the cop. So I get out, and I get out of the car. My husband stayed in the car. And I found out later it was because he was worried that they would… he realized quicker than I did, I think, what was going on. And he didn't wanna be a strange man in the area."
Hart got emotional as she continued telling the story.
"So I got out of the car, and I went and helped these children cross the street. And I'm picking one up off the, out of the woods, they're literally coming out of the woods, like this, and this little girl looks at me. She said, 'What are we doing? What's going on? What's going on?' And I was like, 'We're just gonna cross the road,'" Hart recalled. "And I was hoping she doesn't hear — she doesn't know me, so maybe she doesn't know the fear in my voice — but it's really quickly dawning on me, this is not a fire drill. They are running across the road. Something is going on, really bad. Something is worse behind them than them crossing the street and putting children on the side of, basically, a highway."
In the moment, Hart said, she didn't understand why the teachers weren't talking to her. But she did later.
"I didn't put it together that they are probably a) holding it together, b) running for their lives and trying to save every one of these 20-something babies that are running across the street," she said, as she seemed to be choking back tears. "Like it was literally like a momma duck and her little ducklings, like, running across the street, and all traffic stopped."
Hart said after the young students and their teachers left, she met a woman whose children were in the school that had been attacked, and they began praying together. While, at first, the crowd was unsure whether anyone had been hurt, Hart said she realized that they had when she saw the first ambulances roll by.
"It was just… the worst thing I've ever seen, and I'm not even a first responder," Hart said of the entire experience. "I didn't even see what they had to see, what those teachers saw, what those children saw. So it was just a really hard day. And it's only gonna get worse for some around here, families that have to grieve and process."
Hart and her co-host noted that the community is tight-knit, even though Nashville is a city. The actress/director noted that her pastor lost a daughter in the tragic event.
"It’s a lot to process, and so we're doing our best to talk about it, and show compassion and love and patience with it all, too, is kinda hard," she said. "I felt the anger set in today."
Hart said she found it difficult to describe what had happened.
"Is tragic the right word? Is horrendous the right word? It's definitely not accidental… Unbelievable?"
Police shot and killed the shooter, a former student, at the scene of the crime, which was the 19th shooting this year at an American school or university.
Hart said she planned to send pizza to first responders on Wednesday, and she encouraged her listeners to donate to those affected.