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Part three
The American Way

Students portraying as Jack and Jackie Kennedy perch on the back of a convertible, dressed as the tragic couple on the day the president was assassinated in 1963. The occasion was last Oct. 9, before the start of the Zephyrhills High School homecoming parade. Each class represented a different period in history; juniors portrayed the 1960s. It wasn’t, perhaps, the students’ finest hour (or idea), but the bad taste level only rose when Brent Wernsing, far right, wrested a plastic gun from Lakeisha Mozon, right, playing a Secret Service agent. Then he pretended to assassinate the president (Jason Chancey, who clowned along). Jackie (Laura Steinberg) looked amused, as did Carlos Rivera, left, also dressed as a Secret Service agent. Wernsing said his taking the toy weapon and aiming it at Chancey was a spontaneous action as other students took photos. In light of the recent school shootings in Colorado and Georgia, he says now, "I probably would not do it today."

* * *

Toy Phetsanghane, 15, and Aarron Jawors, 14, wait to see whom to target next with the harmless paint blobs their guns shoot. The students, from Bay Pines Lutheran School in Seminole, are on a field trip to Paint Ballistics in Lithia Springs. Why are they playing a war game? "They just wanted to do something different," says Barry Ryan, a parent who went along to supervise. His daughter Briana also played. Phetsanghane recalls the game with a good deal of pleasure. "I shot some people," he says, "but I got hit more than I hit." He says he does not own a gun, nor does anyone else in his family.

* * *

The actors are unknown but earnest. Sixteen-year-old Eric Koroknay opens fire using a 9mm semiautomatic in a corridor at Seminole High School. Two students are hit. Then Nelson de Leon, 23, a visitor from St. Petersburg Junior College, and Josh Perlman, a 16-year-old sophomore at Seminole, push forward to subdue the shooter. The students are taping an interactive CD-ROM to be called Aftermath: Lessons in School Safety, which will be distributed to schools throughout Florida. Shooter Koroknay had to audition for his starring role.

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