Kelsea Ballerini‘s mother, Carla Denham, recounts one of the most terrifying incidents of the star’s childhood in a new installment of the Got It From My Momma podcast, hosted by Jennifer Vickery Smith.
That 2008 day started like any other, when Denham dropped her daughter off for high school in the morning. But as she drove away, she got a phone call that would make any parents’ heart sink: There was an active shooter at school.
“I was maybe a mile down the road, and she had her cell phone, and I get the call. I’m driving, and I pick up the phone, and she said, ‘Mom, there’s been a shooting. I’m not safe,'” Denham remembers. “That’s all I heard.”
The phone went dead, and Denham immediately sprang into action.
“I flipped a [U-turn] in the middle of a busy intersection in morning traffic. Didn’t care. I was on the horn,” Denham recalls, “And by the time I got back that mile to the school, all these police cars are passing me. I just pulled up on somebody’s lawn. And they already had caution taped off the entire school parking lot. Of course, I go flying through it, I don’t care.”
According to an August 2008 report from a local Knoxville NBC affiliate, the shooting claimed the life of one student, and was a targeted act by a suspect who knew the victim. The gunman, 15-year-old Jamar Siler, was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison, according to the Knoxville Sentinel.
Ballerini’s mother goes on to say that her daughter was just feet away from the tragedy. “It was before school, and they were in the quad area. When a lockdown happens, you’re supposed to go to your first period,” Denham explains.
“Well, her first period was music,” she continues. “And it was way across the quad. And she saw this boy walk up … to another boy, heard a pop, and he had shot this kid through a water bottle. That was the pop. Then he walked away. And she says this young [boy], 10 feet from her, fall to the ground and start to bleed out.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Denham shares her perspective on Ballerini’s musical journey and her thoughts on the singer’s new Rolling Up the Welcome Mat EP.
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