This Is How It Feels To Survive A School Shooting

Elephant / Amazon.com
Elephant / Amazon.com

I’m not writing this to tell so I can tell you what I experienced on June 5th, 2014 at 3:30 PM.

I’m writing this so that people can know about what comes after — what isn’t covered by the media, and what never goes away.

Imagine the worst thing that could happen to you and you will still not be able to grasp the pain and grief caused by a school shooting because school shootings aren’t even unimaginable, but beyond the realm of inconceivable scenarios. There are the car accidents and drug overdoses — the tragedies we hear of quite often that make you shudder and think, “That will never happen to me.” But school shootings? They exist on another plain of intangibility. We might see them on the news on a weekly basis, but it’s always at a distance, and loss of human lives are always reduced to numbers. Better to keep ourselves at arm’s length, our culture suggests, lest we become too familiar with an event that will go on to change these victims’ lives forever.

More than anything, you need to know that there is no moving on from this. Everywhere I go, the grief, the pain, and the mourning hang around my neck constantly, pressing down on my chest incessantly. Everything that happened that day — from the text message lockdown alert to the perennial cacophony of helicopters and sirens, is on constant repeat in my mind and I don’t know if it will ever stop.

When it comes up in conversation that I go to SPU, I can see it in people’s faces: they want to ask, but they can’t find the words. And to be honest, I’m so thankful for those moments. Because when they do find eventually the words, I am usually at a loss for mine. The struggle to collect myself and politely accept their sympathy does not get any easier as time goes on.

The confusion that comes with wondering why someone with absolutely no connections to the university would choose to attack it at random is something that doesn’t get easier either, and a burden I would never wish on anyone.

Seattle Pacific University was a small Christian college nobody had heard about that became famous for all of the wrong reasons. And while of course I do not mean to trivialize school shootings that have happened in the past and continue to happen, I do want to say that our story is different. Our story has a hero. One student with pepper spray did more than the FBI, the SWAT team, or anyone else could have done — combined. Unlike the endings to other tragic shootings, the man who attacked my home and destroyed everything I held secure and sacred was not able to kill himself like the examples he sought to become. Instead, he was overcome. And justice will be served as God sees fit. TC mark

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