Cokeville Elementary School Miracle: Do You Believe in Angels?

Cokeville Elementary School Miracle: Do You Believe in Angels?

A Story by Vanessa Rico

Did angels save these children from a madman?


The day started off like any other for the students and staff of Cokeville Elementary School in Cokeville, Wyoming. No one knew how that day, May 16, 1986, would forever be etched in everyone’s mind.

                School started as usual and special events, including a “teddy bear picnic” in the park, had gone as planned that is until noon. A strange woman walked into second grade teachers, Carol Petersen’s, classroom just as Carol had gathered her students into reading groups. The woman began telling Carol there was an emergency in Room 2 and she needed to rally up her kids and go quickly to Room 2. Knowing that was an unusual request to bring the kids towards the emergency and danger, Carol reluctantly did as she was told. Room 2 was a 30 by 30 foot room and seemed to be filled with every teacher and student in the school. Upon arriving to the room, Carol noticed an unkempt man with a shaggy red beard and crazed eyes standing in the middle of the room. If this was not shocking enough, in his hand, there was a gun; fear began to rise up in everyone present. As if one gun was not enough, there were even more piles of guns stockpiled under the blackboard. A shopping cart, like any other shopping cart that you use at a grocery store, was filled with wires and metal along with a string that anchored the man to the shopping cart and the horrors inside it.

                This man was not some random stranger to the town of Cokeville; in fact, he had been appointed town marshal. Several years earlier, this man, David Gary Young, who was town marshal, thought of himself as a modern day Wyatt Earp. He went around town with a swagger and a loaded fire arm that he twirled as if it were a cheerleader’s baton. Puffed up with power, he was prone to emotional outbursts and unpredictable behavior, thinking that he was untouchable in his new position. David thought he was invulnerable; however, he was dismissed because of his unconventional behavior. Before leaving town, he married a wannabe singer, Doris Luff, and drove off into the sunset with his new wife. Everyone thought they saw the last of David Gary Young until that day he was standing in Mrs. Mitchell’s Room 2.

                Once everyone was gathered in that small room, which was not intended to hold 169 people, David maddeningly shouted, “I am a revolutionary! I am the most wanted man in the country!” He soon made his ransom demands known to the police officers that surrounded the school. The demands were $2 million dollars for each child and a personal phone call from the president. David told all the adults that their lives did not mean anything to him�"their lives were forfeit.

                Only for a few lines from David, his wife, Doris, did most of the talking. She told the children, “Someday you’ll be famous for this. You’ll write about it in your journals.” Many of the children described her as having a kindly demeanor, which was strange for one who was associated with a clearly disturbed man.

                The fumes from the gasoline that filled the bomb sitting in the shopping cart made many children sick. David refused to let anyone leave the room so the children had to make do with retching into trash bins. As the day progressed, it became apparent to many that David was getting more and more agitated and irrational with the children. All of the teachers were doing their best to keep the children entertained; even Doris tried to get kids interested on the games. She was heard saying, “Think of this as an adventure, something that you can tell your own kids and grandkids about.”

You know how children tend to have short attention spans and many quickly tired of this situation. Some of the children were restless and were inching up towards David’s personal space. As a result of this, David barked at a teacher to cordon off a section of the room where all of the children had to stay. The teacher grabbed some masking tape and created a big square in the middle of the room for where the children were to stay. “Cross this line of death and I’ll start shooting the grown-ups. I’ll shoot everyone if I have to!”

With all of the children crammed into the boundaries of the square, David grew more nervous and decided to take a break and use the restroom. He handed and tied the string leading to the bomb to Doris’ wrist. The day dragged on for everyone involved. Several of the children had been playing quietly on the floor, when they saw something quite unbelievable. An angel described as shiny with white flowing robes told the children, “Don’t be scared. Get up and get to the window. The bomb is about to go off.” Apparently most of the children saw this incredibly beautiful woman, who glowed with an otherworldly light, and did as she asked of them. No one knows if Doris saw the same woman or something else, because something startled her and the bomb went off. Children panicked and screamed. The teachers began evacuating children through the window. Those that saw Doris as the bomb went off described her as a “flaming torch”.

The teachers got all the children out safe and sound. A few of them had minor cuts and burns, but they were alive, thanks to the shining woman in white. David heard the explosion go off and saw his wife up in flames and shot her; then, realizing what he had done, he shot himself. Many people call this a miracle, a divine intervention, a lucky break, and so on and so on. The bomb that David Gary Young had created was designed to blow up the whole school, but only one of the five blasting caps had gone off. This man, this David Gary Young, was known to have a high IQ and knew how to create explosives. It has been a quandary to many why the bomb did not go off as it should have. Later on in the investigation of the bomb, they found that several of the wires had been mysteriously cut? Lucky break or divine intervention? The only two people that died that day had been David and Doris, who had planned on blowing up everyone so that they could be reincarnated into a new world where David would be ruler. Another fact for thought, they were the only two, who had not been inside the cordoned off square. I am not sure if this is pertinent to this story, but a few weeks before this ordeal there was a malfunction of the school’s emergency system. The fire alarm at random times kept going off giving the students plenty of practice to become expert at fire drills. Again, I must ask you lucky break or divine intervention…there are things in this world that we do not always see or understand, but they are there. You must decide for yourselves what you believe.

© 2011 Vanessa Rico

Author's Note

Vanessa Rico
I tried to stay true to the original events. My sources for this were: and I do hope that this makes you think. Enjoy!
Oh and the picture is a photograph taken from the elementary school after the bombing. Eerie?

My Review

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Featured Review

This was nice, and I like how you used a real article as inspiration. It was a very interesting read.

I spotted a few mistakes, though. In this sentence: "A strange woman walked into second grade teachers, Carol Petersen’s, classroom..." teacher should be singular, not plural. In the third paragraph, you repeat yourself. First, you say, "in fact, he had been appointed town marshal," and you then go on to write, "this man, David Gary Young, who was town marshal..." You should omit one of those statements. Also, the first sentence of the seventh paragraph doesn't really make sense, so maybe you should consider rewording it?

Aside from those mistakes, I thought that this piece was nice and well-written.

Posted 10 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


This was a great story I enjoyed it very much thank you for sharing

Posted 10 Years Ago

Oh , so much compassion in my heart . Reminds me of one little poem , that says it all in three lines , but I can't quote it here , because I don't remember the writer for time being . It had been recorded in ancient Greece . What to say about your text , story and writing . English is not my native language , but I am delighted to learn so many new words in my vocabulary . Loved the world unkempt especially .

Posted 10 Years Ago

Great read.I read that you don't get a fair share of reviews.I find my poems get reviewed more than my stories.
I like the twists in this.I thought the strange lady in the class room was going to take all the kids,but the bomb by david was a twist.I love the silvery white woman image that saves them and the reference to miracle.I do not personally believe in miracles tosay,I believe all things miracle is or will be common knowledge oneday.(making one fish into many was once a miracle but now with cloning is coming more a fraction of knowledge)
As far as Davids knowledge of bomb making being to extensive for error.I find people subconciously fuckup when everything is on the line.Especially when they are crazy.I think it is more a law of nature than miracle.
I like the story and the bases of the story,and My input on miracles does not change that.Your story made me think is all.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Very tenseful read, I remeber seeing this on t.v. are something like it! Great job!

Posted 10 Years Ago

lol i like this

Posted 10 Years Ago

I think you did very well telling this story. It's very inspirational, great job :)
I know what religion David is, just from two sentences. I bet I know where his family lived at one point- but in order to save myself from accidentally insulting people I'm going to refrain. Just thought I'd make ya curious as to what I know from two sentences.

Anyway, great write!

Posted 10 Years Ago

very well done and paced as you show a gift with the pen my friend straight forward and a very fast read
keep posting cheers gonzo

Posted 10 Years Ago

Vanessa- this is a really good piece. Your sources checked out well, and you did a fantastic job bringing a news piece to life. I really like your style.
The only paragraph that I noticed that felt choppy was the closing paragraph. I was thinking that it might break down better into two prgrphs, one wrapping up the story (getting the children out, &etc) and the other with your conclusion.
The bit where you wrote, "Later on in the investigation of the bomb, they found that several of the wires had been mysteriously cut?" kind of threw me because the question felt wrong. The square of tape does not need to be mentioned again, but the addition of the emergency system malfunction note was a very good touch.
I look forward to reading more of your work!

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is a great story! you are very talented I really enjoyed reading this.

Posted 10 Years Ago

What a terrible thing to live through. I taught school for many years and experienced a few lock downs because some nut case came on to the campus. Your story is every teachers nightmare. We need more angels not every school has been as lucky as that one.

Posted 10 Years Ago

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40 Reviews
Shelved in 5 Libraries
Added on April 10, 2011
Last Updated on April 10, 2011


Vanessa Rico
Vanessa Rico

Walhalla, SC

Hey writerscafe! Its been a very long hiatus since I have been on here and actively writing. I have missed both writing and this community. When I was first on here, I was a mom of 1 but now I have be.. more..

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