BALTIMORE – The father of a 17-year-old disabled boy wounded in a cafeteria shooting on the first day of school near Baltimore said Thursday he wants parents to be aware of what their children say on social media and young people to tell an adult if anyone makes a sinister statement.
Robert Gladden, the 15-year-old charged with shooting Daniel Borowy, posted on Facebook before Monday's shooting at Perry Hall High School, "First day of school, last day of my life."
In an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Milton Borowy asked parents to be friends with their child on social media sites and "wake up to what the social media shows you." He begged teenagers to act if they're concerned about what someone says.
"Don't be shy, don't be afraid," Milton Borowy said. "If there's something suspicious, if you see something, you have to tell a guidance counselor. If it turns out to be a joke, great."
Doctors at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center say Daniel Borowy suffered a bruised lung and a fractured rib. His chest muscles are damaged and there is a dinner-plate sized hole in his right chest that doctors are working to close.
His parents and doctors say Borowy, who has Down Syndrome, is strong, determined and cooperative, although he wants to leave the hospital. Rosemary Borowy said her son, who has had a breathing tube for most of the week, gestured by moving two fingers in a walking motion that meant, "Let's go home!"
When the tube was removed Thursday, Borowy asked about a cousin and said, "Lady Gaga." His mother said he wants to marry the musician and keeps a suitcase packed so he is ready to travel to meet her any time. He has a ring for the proposal, and sometimes gets ideas about other gifts, such as his mother's hairspray and jewelry. When anything is missing, the family checks the suitcase in case he has decided the item would be a good present for Gaga.
The parents are delighted with an online campaign by friends asking Lady Gaga to contact Borowy. They also like a "Pray for Daniel" message circulated widely on Twitter.
Other attention, including people circulating medical details on social media sites and to reporters, is less welcome. Milton Borowy asked everyone to keep personal conversations private and let the family's pastor at Perry Hall Family Worship Center and a family spokeswoman distribute accurate, authorized information. The church is raising money to help pay Borowy's medical bills.
Before the shooting, Borowy was happy about returning to school and his mother stopped by his special education class to check on him. He was wearing a Statue of Liberty crown and holding a torch and having a good time. He was excited because this year he would spend time regularly working in the community as part of a vocational skills program. Borowy is one of about 15 special needs students who study life and vocational skills, as well as reading, math and physical education.
His parents say they don't know the circumstances of the shooting or whether Borowy knew Gladden. Milton Borowy said he has tried to protect his wife from stories about what happened so she can focus on their son.
"Danny was shot. That's all I really need to know," Milton Borowy said.
The Borowys declined to talk about the legal case against Gladden, who has been charged as an adult. Gladden's father and lawyer have said he was bullied at school, and his lawyer said he brought the gun to school to intimidate bullies — not to shoot anyone.
"Obviously, he's a troubled young man. I hope he gets the help he needs," Milton Borowy said. That doesn't mean he forgives Gladden, he said, but the rest is for the legal system to deal with.
The Borowys rushed to the hospital after the shooting and the father got there first. Asked what he saw, he replied, "A breathing boy." He sighed with relief and called his wife to say, "'He's OK.' She knew what that meant — he was alive."
Dr. Thomas Scalea, head of the Shock Trauma Center, and thoracic surgeon Dr. James O'Connor operated for about four hours on Borowy's abdomen and chest. While his parents call the damage horrible, they know their son could have been paralyzed or killed.
"He is a young, healthy kid, but this is still a significant injury," Scalea said. He said he thinks Borowy will recover and go home, although it's too soon to say when. Borowy is small for 17 — 4 feet 10 inches tall and 120 pounds — but strong, his mother said.
Borowy's Down Syndrome presents no obstacles physically in terms of his treatment, although he had open heart surgery when he was four. Communication is the bigger challenge, Scalea said.
"That's a little more complicated. He will communicate with his parents better, so this will be a three-way conversation," with doctors and nurses to understand what he is feeling. "We're determined to get that right."
The Borowys' three other children, 22-year-old Nicholas, 19-year-old Jonathan and 15-year-old Sara, help their brother and each other any way they can.
Another child, 3-year-old Jessica, drowned in 1991 in her grandparents' swimming pool. Rosemary Borowy said she prayed to Jessica to reach out to her youngest son after the shooting.
"We believe that Jess helped him. She helped Daniel in her way on Monday, when he needed it the most," Milton Borowy said.
R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center: http://www.umm.edu/shocktrauma
Perry Hall Family Worship Center: http://phfwc.org