York County, Pa., educator recounts machete attack on ‘I Survived…’


Norina Bentzel, principal of North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School, holds a letter she wrote to William Michael Stankewicz in 2009. A judge sentenced William Michael Stankewicz to 132 to 264 years in prison. Stankewicz was sentenced for his Feb. 2, 2001, machete attack on Bentzel, members of her staff, and students at North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School.Background posts: York County’s most notorious crimes and 16 York County Good Samaritans honored with Carnegie Medals since 1906.

Heroic former Red Lion Area School District principal Norina Bentzel appeared on nationally televised Biography Channel’s “I Survived …” this week.

Bentzel fended off the machete-wielding madman William Stankewicz in 2001, minimizing an attack that left two teachers and 11 children injured, but none killed… .

The attack was the first by an outsider in York County schools during a time that such assaults were becoming common across America.
Two years later, another incident in Red Lion schools left a principal dead.
Fourteen-year-old James R. Sheets shot and killed Eugene P. Segro in the Red Lion Area Junior High School cafeteria. Sheets then turned the gun on himself.
Some students in the district witnessed both assaults.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News story (6/17/08) on Bentzel’s heroics follows:

Anytime elementary school principal Norina Bentzel speaks about surviving an attack by a machete-wielding intruder in her school, she’s sincere and speaks from the heart, she said.
In being profiled on the Biography Channel’s “I Survived. . .” program, which aired Monday night, she hoped to make it better for others if they go through a similar situation.
“You can get through it, you can survive it and you can move on,” she said before the show aired.
Bentzel recounted for the program how the intruder, William Michael Stankewicz, slipped into the North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School and attacked the staff and students.
Bentzel, two teachers and 11 children were injured. Stankewicz was later convicted and sentenced to 132 to 264 years in prison.
Bentzel explained that she survived because of the maternal instinct a mother has for children — whether they would have been her own or other people’s children.
“Mothers have that instinct to be able to protect them,” she said.
She also recalled how several kindergarten children sat on the floor holding hands while she laid in front of them, and how she had a strong sense of peace while she was on a stretcher, ready to be wheeled out of the school.
“I remember thinking: We are going to be OK. We are going to get through this. We are going to do it together somehow,” she said on the show.
Bentzel said the production company spent 21/2 hours interviewing her and edited it down to 15 minutes.
She had received a copy of the show and watched it before the program aired Monday night. Sometimes the media makes the story too graphic and plays up on the horror of it, Bentzel said, but the “I Survived. . .” program didn’t do that.
It was respectfully done, Bentzel said.
“I was very pleased with it,” she said.

Background posts:
- School violence struck York County in 1970.
- A list of traumatic, painful incidents that rocked York County.
- All pain and trauma posts from the start.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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