Unfazed by the bloodbath around her as screaming schoolchildren fell to the ground in a spray of gunfire, English teacher Shannon Wright stepped in front of little Emma Pittman and took a bullet for the sixth-grader.
Emma was unharmed, but the shooting rampage cost four girls and the Westside Middle School teacher their lives.Police say the killers were one of Wright's former pupils - a 13-year-old boy - and an 11-year-old boy who also went to the school.
The 32-year-old English teacher, mother of a 2-year-old son, was shot in the chest and abdomen. She died later at a hospital.
"I think Mrs. Wright saw that bullet coming," Emma Pittman told The Jonesboro Sun. "She grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me out of the way. She got hit and she just fell."
Police said Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden lured classmates out of school with a fake fire alarm, then cut them down in a barrage of bullets. Ten other youngsters and another teacher were wounded.
Friends said Mitchell - who was Wright's pupil last year - was angry about being jilted by a girl and had warned classmates a day earlier that "he had a lot of killing to do."
Mitchell Wright said his wife never was critical of the 13-year-old boy.
"She never came home and talked bad about any of her kids," Wright said Wednesday, barely 12 hours after his wife died following surgery.
She had just finished lunch with her pupils and returned to the classroom when the fire alarm rang. The students and teachers filed out into the schoolyard, and the boys, decked out in camouflage gear and up on a ridge, opened fire.
"I saw Mrs. Wright take Emma Pittman and she took her arm and pulled Emma behind her and that's when she got shot," said Amber Vanoven, 11. "Everybody started screaming and I saw her fall on the ground."
Wright wasn't surprised at reports that his wife was a hero.
"I'm sure that if she thought someone was trying to hurt one of her kids, she would try to protect them," he said.
Emma's mother, Susan Pittman, said the teacher's selflessness saved her daughter's life.
"My heart just goes out" to Wright's family, Susan Pittman said. "I feel she needs a hero award for saving our child. I want her family to know how grateful and thankful we are because she didn't think of herself; she thought of these children."