Wyoming Attractions September 05, 2017
The Shocking Event That Horrified This Wyoming Town Will Never Be Forgotten
Many people living in small towns feel safe, believing that they’re far away from the violence and crime of the big cities. In 1986, one small Wyoming town learned the hard way that terrible things can happen anywhere in communities of any size. When a former marshal walked into the local elementary school, no one could have imagined what he had in mind, and no one will ever forget the horrifying events that unfolded over the next few hours.
With little over 500 residents, Cokeville, Wyoming is a true small town.
It's a quiet community where everyone knows their neighbors and kids play unafraid in parks and on playgrounds. That is, until May of 1986, when the unthinkable happened.
On May 16, a Friday afternoon shortly before school would be out for the summer, a man entered Cokeville Elementary School around 1 p.m.
It was David Young, and he was no stranger - about a decade before, he'd served as the town marshal.
David's wife, Doris, was with him, and so was his daughter from a previous marriage.
What was strange, however, was that Young's companions carried an arsenal of weapons with them, and David was pushing a shopping cart containing a homemade bomb which was connected to his arm.
David's daughter fled the school shortly after entering the building. Hijacking her father's van, she raced to town hall where she informed authorities of David's plans. Meanwhile, David and Doris took over an empty classroom, then herded students, staff, teachers, and visitors inside. It's reported that they attempted to cram over 150 people into a room that had a maximum capacity of 30 children and one teacher.
In the middle of the classroom, the Youngs had taped off a small rectangular area. They stood inside it and instructed everyone else to stay outside the perimeter. Then they informed everyone of their plans to start "a revolution."
David Young's revolution included taking the Cokeville children hostage, demanding $2 million for each one, then detonating the bomb which he believed would transport Doris, all the children, him, and the money safely to a "Brave New World" - a world which he would rule over as a god.
A little after 4 p.m., David disconnected the bomb from himself and hooked it up to his wife so he could use the restroom connected to the classroom. As Doris was gesturing with her hands while talking to the hostages, she triggered the bomb and set it off.
Hearing the blast, David Young came back into the room to find adults and children escaping through the door and climbing out windows. Seeing Doris engulfed in flames and writhing in agony, he shot her to end her misery. He also shot the school music teacher in the back as he was trying to escape but, possibly realizing that his plan was unraveling, Young didn't attempt to stop anyone else. He simply retreated to the restroom and shot himself in the head.
Incredibly, the only people to die in the tragedy were David and Doris Young. Many of the children were burned in the blast and had to be treated for burns and smoke inhalation, but none of the injuries were fatal. Even the music teacher survived being shot.
As eyewitness accounts from the children started to surface, the focus of the story became one of miracles over tragedy. Some told of praying silently during the crisis, and others prayed together in small groups. Many of the children remembered seeing angels in the classroom, whom they credit with protecting them and getting them out alive.
This photo taken in the classroom after the blast shows an odd outline burned onto the wall. Students say it is exactly where one of the angels was standing during the ordeal. Several written accounts and at least two movies were made telling the story of what has become known as the Cokeville Miracle.
Do you remember the tragedy in Cokeville?
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