October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Read and share stories to honor survivors whose lives have been changed by domestic violence.

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Salli Garrigan

It was an unremarkable day. I was in my choir class, my safe haven, when suddenly we heard a loud bang, and pandemonium broke out as two heavily armed students came into my high school, shooting anyone in their path. The day was April 20, 1999, and I was a student at Columbine High School.

I was lucky. I ran and managed to make it through the auditorium as the fire alarm rang and the sound of ricocheting bullets reached my ears from the lower commons area of the school. When I made it to the main hall, glass from the front doors of the school shattered in front of me before a teacher pointed me toward another route to safety.

At 16 years old, I encountered and heard things no child should have to endure. We were counseled, consoled and promised that “this was an anomaly. This will never. Happen. Again.” At the time, I believed these words. I also made it a point that the events at Columbine would never happen again and wouldn’t define who I was.

As the years went by, the gun violence epidemic continued, and I started to feel the aftershocks. In some instances, dealing with my own survivor’s guilt, depression, PTSD, the fear of failing and constantly examining my exit strategy in each room I entered. These are the things that people don’t talk about but become part of the daily lives of people touched by tragedies like this.

I found an amazing outlet through musical theater, but I often met each new tragedy with complacency. I would always check in with my friends from high school and donate money to the cause, but that’s all I did to help. I didn’t know my story mattered in this fight until I saw the resilience of the Parkland community and had two kids of my own.

Very few people know how hard the road to healing is. It took 19 years for me to find a community like Moms Demand and realize that my story matters. I am now surrounded by voices that WON’T be failed. That gives me newfound hope for our future and the future of my children.

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.

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