(MARINETTE, Wis.) -- The teacher who police credited with saving the lives of two dozen of her students this week during a five-hour hostage stand-off at a Wisconsin high school spoke out for the first time late Tuesday to share credit with the kids.
"The kids were great," Valerie Burd told reporters. "I'm glad they just made it out safe."
Sam Hengel, 15, brandished two guns Monday afternoon during the sixth period Western Civilization class and took Burd, a 10-year teaching veteran, along with his 24 other classmates hostage, police said. Burd stayed on the phone with police while Hengel refused to talk, and directed arriving students to the safety of the library.
When police entered the room after hearing gunshots Monday night, Hengel turned one of the guns on himself and fired. He died Tuesday morning of the self-inflicted gunshot. None of the other students were harmed.
"She saved the lives of many students by her calm demeanor," Marinette High School Principal Corry Lambie said of Burd Tuesday. "I made her aware of how proud I was of her. Her leadership in that classroom was the calming attitude that the students needed to get them out of there safely."
Marinette School Superintendent Tim Baneck echoed the principal's sentiments, saying, "I can't say enough about the dedication of the teacher who was really instrumental."
Hengel's death has left everyone from investigators to classmates and family at a loss to explain what might have motivated him.
The Hengel family released a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying, "Our family is extremely distraught over the events that have taken place over the course of the last 24 hours that have concluded with the passing of our son." They said they wished they "knew and could provide the insight to what led Sam to take these drastic acts" and "there were no indicators to make us think something was wrong."
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