Socastee High School, one year after school shooting

Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of a date that will always be remembered at Socastee High School.

September 21, 2010 is when student Christian Helms, then 14 years old, fired a shot at a school resource officer with plans of doing much more violence.

While no one was seriously hurt that day, there was certainly the potential for deaths and injuries. One year later, the school's principal says life has returned to normal at the school, but in many ways, it will never be normal again.

Dr. Paul Browning hopes people will take note that Socastee had the highest SAT scores in the district last year. "51 points above the national average," he said.

But he knows what he and many others are really thinking about, one year after the shooting.

"That will always be in the back of our minds, just as 9/11 is in the back of our minds. That was a game changer."

School Resource Officer Erik Karney was nearly hit by a bullet that slammed into his office door that day. He managed to overpower the young shooter, who revealed in a video and journal that he had planned a Columbine-style attack.

As a result of the shooting, the school now uses metal detectors as students enter every morning, and teachers pay much closer attention to any student who appears troubled.

"We have heightened our awareness of any kind of harrassment or bullying that goes on, both in the building and in cyberspace, Facebook, Myspace, Youtube," Browning said.

Has the school's reponse to the shooting been good enough? Parents told NewsChannel 15 that for the most part, it has.

"I think they've done a very good job and are much more cautious and alert to what has happened," said Maxine Smith, whose granddaughter is a student at the school.

"I think they did good, but they have to be a little more alert what's going on around them, too," said parent Chris Scagliotti.

Officer Karney is no longer at the school. He chose to move up in rank with the Horry County Police Department.

Browning said students travel a little lighter now, due to the metal detectors.

And he added, over the past year, the school's staff has been troopers and the students have responded well.

But he can't forget how he was the first person through the door just seconds after the shooting and if he can only wonder what might have happened, if Helms hadn't been subdued.

"I am without question the luckiest guy on the planet," Browning said.

Browning said he questions the six-year sentence given to Helms, considering the seriousness of what could have happened, but he sincerely hopes Helms gets the help he needs to return to society. Helms is currently in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

NewsChannel 15 attempted to reach Helms' parents, and we were not successful.