Rare pictures of Michael Jackson visiting Cleveland Elementary in Stockton, California, a few weeks after the shooting which took place at the school. [x]
On February 7, 1989, Michael Jackson visited each classroom from the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, as well as the parents of the children at the nearby Central United Methodist Church, and the children being treated at the hospital just 3 weeks after a gunman had fired 100 bullets onto a playground, then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.
Five children were murdered and 39 injured during the attack. Jackson arrived to comfort the surviving children by giving them the confidence to view the world more positively in the wake of the traumatic experience.
Eight year-old Thahn Tran, who lost his younger brother during the massacre, spoke about the effect Jackson’s visit had on him, saying, “I didn’t want to go back to school, but Michael made it all right again. If he goes there, it must be safe. Michael is my friend and I’m very glad.”
In addition to making another visit to the nearby church hosting the injured ones from the attack and the parents of the dead – to whom he offered his sincere words of sympathy - Jackson signed the wounded children’s casts while chatting and joking with them.
He later made another trip to the San Joaquin General Hospital and visited with two wounded children under treatment there. Seven-year-old Alice Montejano said, while holding her autographed picture, “I’m not frightened about going back to school now, because Michael will keep all of those bad men away.” [x]
A Stockton resident remembers Michael Jackson’s visit:
Michael Jackson was there for us when it mattered most. He didn’t have to, but that was the side of him that many people did not know.
On a day when the City of Stockton was down for the count, Michael Jackson showed up out of the blue and resuscitated us back into existence. We could not do the same for him.
After a madman with a rifle killed and injured dozens of schoolchildren at Cleveland Elementary in Stockton, California, nobody would expect the world’s biggest musical superstar to take notice and make the effort to show up in person in January of 1989.
Patrick Purdy may have destroyed many lives that day, but Michael Jackson’s presence helped bring more attention and compassion to the victims than anybody else on planet Earth could have done in a hundred years.
I certainly remember the panic in the air around Stockton, the calamity and desperation of parents stopping everything they were doing and racing to get their kids out of school immediately. I clearly recall hoping desperately that the police got there fast and ended it in a hurry.
The incident in Stockton led to a quick assault rifle ban in California and was the beginning of national campaigns and activism against these types of deadly guns, according to an analysis by Reuters. Michael Jackson played a major role by his presence there that day.
Michael Jackson, coolest pop singer on the planet, showed up in Stockton with “truckloads of gifts to the children” and helped comfort survivors of the attack, according to Diane Batres who worked for the district attorney’s victim witness department.
The Record newspaper of Stockton has reported that Michael Jackson went far beyond the call of duty when he visited the classrooms of Cleveland Elementary School and met with the injured survivors of the shooting.
This is true. The residents of Stockton suffered a huge psychological blow that cannot be described, one where one minute all is normal and the next minute a crazed maniac with an assault rifle is shooting and killing innocent children at an elementary school. The rage, madness and intensity of this cannot be compared.
It has been a little more than twenty years since the Cleveland Elementary School shooting in Stockton, but I get chills every time I think about it because I lived in Stockton at the time, was a high school student then, and it easily could have been my school that Purdy attacked.
Michael Jackson was exceptionally different and he had more than his share of troubles. But I don’t remember any of that stuff.
My most powerful and long-lasting memory of Michael Jackson was after that school shooting in my hometown when he showed up and brought doses of mesmerizing happiness and cool comfort that nobody else in the world could bring.
At the height of his fame, he reached out to a community that needed help in the worst way. [x]
(More pictures and stories about Michael Jackson’s visit can be found here and here)