When Nathan Machen heard the first shot fired at Perry Hall High School Monday, he thought he was hearing the loud bang of a bag of potato chips opening.
Nathan, 14, who was starting his first day at the school, had gone to the cafeteria after his gym class, around 10:20 a.m.
"There was silence after the first shot, then there was another shot and everybody started screaming, and running into the streets," he said.
The shooting left one student critically injured. The alleged assailant is in police custody.
Nathan called his mom Carissa Machen less than 30 minutes later and alerted her to the situation. Carissa Machen said she received the first of several robocalls from the school system updating parents on the situation about an hour after her son's call.
It wasn't until Carissa got to her Perry Hall home at around 1:30 p.m. that she saw her son in person. Carissa's husband Kevin Mechan had picked him up from school.
During those hours, Carissa was hearing conflicting reports from the media, school system and police about where to pick up the Perry Hall students.
"For the most part, [communications from the school were] good," Carissa said. "But it was very confusing hearing three different things to do."
Regan Gwin, whose son Connor was also starting his first day of high school, learned of the shooting when another Perry Hall mom called her—it wasn't long though before the school system began calling.
"I was at work, a friend of mine called me and told me there was a shooting at the school—her son was in the cafeteria. He ran outside and, of course, called his mother who called me," she said.
"It was 10-15 minutes later every single one of my phones were ringing. I have a work cell, a work phone, a personal cell, and a home phone—they were all going off. I can't say enough good things about Perry Hall High School ... I have never been frozen with fear before, but I was today. That school did an excellent job of keeping parents abreast of what was going on at the school."
When students are first registered at the school, parents have the option of signing up for Connect-Ed, a service that sends recorded alerts to parents in case of school emergencies, said Charles Herndon, a school spokesman.
The updates on the Baltimore County Public Schools website, however, were delayed.
"Communication to me is extremely huge, but it's also important, most important to communicate actively," Superintendent S. Dallas Dance at the scene early afternoon."It'd be premature at this point to put anything out there that hasn't been verified by our police department and Chief [Jim] Johnson.
Herndon noted that although the school system has communication protocols in place in the event of emergencies, some plans were not carried out effectively amidst the chaos.
At a press conference at the school system's main campus in Towson, Dance acknowledged that parents were informed of the shooting through social media.
"I do know...in the age of social media we did have students who were making contact with parents as well." he said.
Are you a Perry Hall parent? How did you first learn of the events at Perry Hall High Monday morning? Share your story in the comments.
Read more about the shooting at Perry Hall High School on Patch: