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Healing after Surviving a School Shooting

Six years ago, PLNU senior writing major Whitney Byrd survived the shooting at Arapahoe High School. Byrd, along with many students in the U.S., has had to learn how to move forward after going through a traumatic event.

“As I was sitting there, I thought ‘oh my gosh, this could be my last—’ and as I was thinking that, it was like someone took an eraser and literally wiped it clean,” Byrd said. “I couldn’t even go down the train of thought that this could be my last day.” According to Byrd, she had peace that she would be safe that day. Recently, she’s processed her experience through a writing project for her capstone class describing that day.

Since the shooting at Columbine, over 187,000 students at primary and secondary schools have experienced school shootings, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. These students have survived but can remain scarred and traumatized for years.

Two weeks ago, two survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting took their own lives within six days of each other. The National Center for PTSD estimates that 28 percent of people who witness mass shootings develop PTSD, and approximately a third develop acute stress disorder.

“Trauma and loss don’t just go away, you have to learn to live with it through getting support,” Parkland survivor and activist David Hogg wrote on Twitter.

According to Byrd, while she didn’t directly witness the shooting, dealing with the reality of it is something that took years and is still in process. The shooting in Las Vegas, in particular, brought back memories from the shooting and reminded her of what she felt six years ago, Byrd said.

“I was a mess the entire next day when we found out how many people had died. The emotion that I thought I could just put in a box was not able to be boxed up that day. As I’ve worked on this project, I’ve come to understand there’s so much power in my story as the survivor who didn’t necessarily see or hear anything but was still there.”

After the shootings, several survivors have turned to activism in different capacities to try and prevent future shootings. Sophomore marketing major Trevor Krantz has been involved with The Sandy Hook Promise, an organization started by parents who lost their children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, since his freshman year of high school.

“The really amazing thing about so many of these survivors are actually pushing for their own change,” Krantz said. “Activism shows a lot of courage, especially for those students, and I think it leaves a legacy for those who passed away.”

Krantz has helped to spearhead efforts to implement Sandy Hook Promise programs around the country, and recently 50 of 52 school districts in San Diego adopted them. Krantz also worked on the Federal Commission on School Safety with Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and survivors of school shootings, and the group put together a report that was sent to President Trump about what can be done federally to help prevent future shootings.


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Marlee Drake

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