Lena Duda

On Valentine’s Day 2008 (10 years before Parkland) at 3:06 p.m., a gunman came into the Cole Hall lecture hall at Northern Illinois University and started shooting. The shooting lasted less than a minute, but in that time he killed five people and injured 22 others. He killed himself before the cops could get him. Had it been 10 minutes earlier, I would’ve been right outside that building cutting through to go to work.

I can remember the frantic voicemail my roommate left me, then calling her back and immediately calling my mom to tell her I was fine. I can remember the chaos of not being able to use my phone because lines were jammed for five hours afterwards, while the rumors about more gunmen ran rampant. I can remember the emptiness and stillness of campus the day after, as if God froze it all in bitter winds and ice. I can remember the shock and pain of realizing a classmate was killed, the anger at what happened, the feeling of being violated, the need to fight back but not knowing against what, and the feeling that the depression will never go away… It’s with me always. #ForwardTogetherForward

Natalie Shippam

When I was a sophomore, there was a shooting at my high school. Two people died, and 13 were injured. It was almost 20 years ago, and it still haunts me, especially now that I’m a mother. I get flashbacks, I have anxiety and I fear for my kids’ safety because I know how real gun violence is. It can happen anywhere, anytime, here in the United States. I’m almost expecting it to happen again.

I jump at loud noises. Being a survivor also caused me immense feelings of guilt, and I’ve struggled with depression since. My faith used to comfort me through these feelings, and it was a great distraction for many years. Now I feel that it only repressed these feelings and told me that the shooting happened because of an absence of God’s influence at my school. I now understand that my feelings are valid and that there is more correlation with gun violence and gun availability than with the lack of prayer in schools.

Joanne Wallace

I heard the Code Red; I hid under a table with my students in the principal’s conference room. I texted my husband to get our son, and “I Love You,” which was code for goodbye. I survived, but too many did not. Now I fight for changes; now I attend rallies. I meet with politicians, I email, call, post and tweet. I cry. I pray. I pray that we can fix it. I keep going. Don’t forget MSD. Don’t forget Parkland. Keep going.

Nara Altmann

On May 7, 2019, I was in my office when a colleague came in and asked me where my kids go to school: “Stem Highlands Ranch,” I responded. “There has been a shooting,” she then said. It wasn’t until one hour later that I heard my daughter’s voice on the phone, and it wasn’t until three hours after that we were reunited.

Some moments in life get stored in our bodies forever. I still catch myself going back to that moment: Reality sinking in at what appeared surreal.

A few days later, I came across the song “In Everything You Do.” I play it on an infinite loop:

I wish that I could keep you from pain,
But like a storm, pain will form,
But I’ll teach you how to face it,
To be weak, yet strong in grace,
I wish that I could keep you from fear,
But, like the night, fear will rise,
So I’ll hold till love suffices…

I am grateful for the support of this survivor community that “holds me till love suffices, to drive far the dark devices,” so that I can choose life and love in the face of fear.

Anonymous

This young man’s name was Bobby McKeithen III. A great friend of mine who tragically passed away due to gun violence. It took place inside David W. Butler High School in Matthews, North Carolina.

On Monday, October 29, 2018, it started off as a typical morning inside David W. Butler High School. It was actually a midterm exams day. Students were hanging out in the hallways, classrooms, cafeteria, outside of school, and in the media center, which was where I was at studying for the midterms. All of this was between the times 6:45 and 7:10 a.m. EST.

I was in the classroom when the tragic event took place. What happened between 7:10 and 7:13 a.m. was what changed Butler forever. Bobby was fatally shot in the back after a scuffle with a fellow student. It triggered a nearly two-hour lockdown at Butler. Bobby unfortunately passed away at a hospital two to three hours after the tragic event took place. It saddened and devastated me. I hope no school ever has to go through such an event, ever.

Dedicated to a generous and memorable soul. Long live Bobby McKeithen. I will never forget you.

Chase

In May 2018, my school district had a shooting. A seventh grader at one of the middle schools brought a gun to school and shot two people, a teacher and a student. Both survived with injuries, but it sent the whole school district into shutdown, especially the high school. As I sat in my U.S. History class, we went into lockdown, as a reports of a possible second shooter spread around the high school. I didn’t know if I would make it out of school that day in that time of uncertainty about a second shooter. I sat in a barricaded classroom. I don’t want anyone to have to experience that again; it’s frightening and mentally affects you afterwards. Students shouldn’t have to worry about shootings in school.

Caitie

In high school, I remember huddling next to my classmates while we watched the door, praying. My teacher stood next to it with a two-by-four, ready to fight if he had to. None of my classmates were killed that day, thank God. But 10 years later, I still re-live it every time I hear about another school shooting. No child should have to text their family that there’s an armed gunman in their school.

Ellen

Simons Rock College of Bard, December 14, 1992.

I remember my friend running into the dorm, shouting that he was being shot at. Then I saw the oddest cloud, and a bullet landed in the wall eight feet away from me. I didn’t understand. It did not make sense: In 1992, we were supposed to be safe in college in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

The chaos ensued. We tried to figure out what was happening — calling friends on campus. Rumors spread of who was dead. We peered and listened out the windows and wondered if we heard people dying. At one point, we were yelled at by the SWAT team to “GET DOWN!”

Then we were corralled by the administration into the dining hall, above the student union where Wayne Lo had been captured. Later, the news crews swarmed like vultures.

When my parents drove the five hours to pick me and my friends up the next day, they said we were like children who had been through a war. We huddled together in shock and fear.

Part of me still feels that way, having never fully recovered or regained the blissful state of feeling safe.

Debbie

I am not sure I’m considered a survivor by some because I wasn’t in the school the day of the shooting. I would say I am. On December 13, 2018, I received the most horrifying text a parent can receive: My son telling me that the school was on lockdown and there was an active shooter at his sister’s school. I made contact with her and then I waited, helpless, not knowing what was to come. Heartache, anger and fear consumed me that day and for days to come. Four hours after the shooter entered the building, exchanged fire and took his own life, I was finally reunited with my daughter.

The days, weeks, months and just recently a year that followed have been some of the hardest I’ve ever known. The trauma my child experienced is heartbreaking. She is brave and using her voice to try and change laws. Together we have come out of the dark place that consumed us for a long time, and now we are more than survivors — we are fighters. I pray for peace and strength for all who have been affected.

Sarah Lerner

I am a teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I was on campus on February 14, 2018, and I was locked in my classroom with 15 students for almost three hours until the SWAT Team let us out. I suffer from PTSD and see a psychologist regularly. I have recently considered anxiety medication because there are days that the feelings are just too overwhelming.

The past two years have been very difficult. I see the pain on the faces of the juniors and seniors who were on campus that day. Every fire alarm. Every Code Red drill. Every birthday. Every holiday.

There are days that it’s very difficult to go to school and be on campus. The building is up and is right outside of my classroom. I know I have to stay at MSD for the students — and for myself. There’s nowhere else I want to teach, and there’s nothing else I want to do.

Trauma is real and never goes away. You can learn to work through it and deal with it, but it never leaves you.

I live my new normal every day.