Sophomore Adam Eng caught a glimpse of the gunman who stormed through Platte Canyon High School — though he didn't realize it at the time.

Eng recalled seeing the bearded suspect wearing a dark, blue hooded sweat shirt with a camouflage backpack. The man was standing in a room with the lights out, "just staring out into space," Eng said.

The student then went to gym class and forgot about it for all of 20 minutes. Then came the "code white" alert. The horror had begun.

By the time it was over, the gunman was dead and one of Eng's classmates was critically wounded. The classmate, 16-year-old Emily Keyes, later died.

Frantic parents rushed to the scene, with many being held up at a blockade erected on the main route through Bailey. They were eventually told to head to an elementary school to wait for loved ones from Platte Canyon and Fitzsimmons Middle School.

The first buses arrived to cheers and shouts of "I love you!"

Nicki Shields and her fifth-grade granddaughter, Cali, were waiting anxiously for eight-grader Caleb to arrive.

Cali said her teacher told them something had happened. "I felt very scared and I started crying because someone might have gotten hurt," Cali said.

The scene was chilling in part because it was so reminiscent of the bloodshed at Columbine High School, less than an hour's drive away in suburban Denver.

"It's hitting close to home because this is where Columbine occurred," said Jacki Kelley, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County sheriff's office, which handled the 1999 shootings.

Sophomore Zack Barnes, 16, said his first indication that there was something wrong at his school was an announcement over the public address system.

"We were sitting there in math class and over the intercom they said 'Students and teachers we have a code white. Repeat, code white.' And nobody really knew what a code white was," he said.

He said his teacher checked a sheet of paper from her desk and then said the class had to move. They eventually ended up in a classroom that turned out to be next to the one where the gunman was holding six hostages.

They turned out the lights and sat in silence in the dark for about 20 minutes as Barnes wondered who was in danger.

Barnes was finally reunited with his father at the elementary school. "I saw him and it was about a 30-minute hug," he said.

Some students were ushered into a gym and stayed put for hours.

"There were people crying, lots of rumors flying around," said senior Marcus Eng, Adam Eng's brother. "Nobody knows who the gunman is or why he did what he did."