ROCKTON, Ill. -- (WIFR) What was supposed to be a routine school field trip to the White House this past Saturday quickly escalated into anything but routine after an Alabama man shot and killed himself near the north lawn.
Students from Stephen Mack Middle School were inside taking a tour when the shots were fired. Students say the Secret Service quickly told them to run as the doors were secured and agents began to surround the building while pulling shotguns and other weapons from hidden view.
The students say initially they had no idea what was happening that may have caused the lockdown, but the situation was intense.
"We saw secret service setting up a perimeter around the windows and then that's what kind of got me psyched out and then the next thing I know I was texting my mom and then I was just running out of The White House and I was just so scared," said Audra Wishop.
Davis Cass, another middle school student caught up in the lockdown, says he felt reassured by the Secret Service's quick response, "They were very much in charge. They were concerned for our safety. They were concerned for the safety of the house and the government there. But, they were not nervous, they seemed very comfortable with what they were doing, which was very reassuring."
Laura Zimmerman, a teacher at Stephen Mack Middle School and organizer of the class trip says once she learned that they were not in danger, it was quite the experience to see the response inside the White House during the intense situation, "Seeing how the inner parts of the White House work and seeing how they do have things so organized and they have these plans, these backup plans, it was really cool to be able to witness that." Zimmerman says she sent text messages to parents during the ordeal to keep them up to date.
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were not in the White House at the time of the shooting. Investigators say the shots fired did not appear to be directed at the White House.