As we approach the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we wanted to revisit a conversation about another shooting involving children. This one happened just 30 minutes south of Parkland.

On June 5, 1989, Sean Smith, 10, and his sister Erin, 8, returned from school to their empty home. While rummaging though their father’s dresser, they came across a .38-caliber revolver which Sean — not knowing it was loaded — began playing with. The gun then went off, fatally wounding Erin.

In the moments that followed, Sean made a desperate call to 911 — an excerpt of that recording is included in this story — but Erin died before help could arrive.

In this episode, we hear from Sean and his mother, Lee, as they remember the day of the shooting, and how they’ve tried to cope and go on with their lives since.


We also hear from Jud Esty-Kendall, who, along with Andrés Caballero, produced the piece for StoryCorps. In his conversation, Jud shares additional audio and discusses some of the history and context that didn’t make it into the broadcast. He also goes into greater detail about how the shooting has shaped the lives of the four surviving members of the Smith family over the past quarter-century.

Episode initially released February 10, 2016, and re-released on March 9, 2018.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
Boom Bip – “The Use Of Unnacceptable Colours In Nature”
Chris Zabriskie – “I am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor”
Action Davis – “Deep Thoughts”
Top photo: Sean and Erin Smith together at home on June 4, 1989, one day before the shooting. Courtesy of Lee Smith.
Bottom photo: Sean and Lee Smith at StoryCorps.