We live in a violent world. Try as we might to shield our children from that violence, all too often it enters their world’s as well. Unfortunately, school shooting are a reality in today’s world.
But what happens after the shooting? What happens when the student’s who witnessed horrific acts of violence has to return to the scene of the crime, day after day?
In a recent Reddit thread, user FreshVaultMeat asked, “People who have experienced school shootings, what was it like to come back to school after the shooting?” and the responses offer insight into what it’s like to be a school shooting survivor.
Two posters were students at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999 when two students murdered 12 students and one teacher, and injured 24 before committing suicide.
GlitterIsMyProzac, who was a Freshman at the time, said she couldn't go back.
"I went back into the school once after, to collect my belongs," she said.
She moved out of state to finish high school, but adds that the story followed her. "Everywhere I went, people seemed to magically know about my past and it became a badge like a scarlet letter," she explains. "I was forever 'That girl from Columbine.'"
User knightfall was a sophmore during the shootings. He shared the heartbreaking memory of having to retrieve his backpack after the attacks.
"They kept our cars and other belongings for several months," he writes. "This created a lot of issues, as most high school students don't have multiple cars to get to school. Also, a lot of us left our backpacks when we finally got out of the school. I always had my wallet in there, so I didn't have any credit cards, IDs, etc. Also, the sprinklers came on after, so when I did finally get my stuff back, it was moldy and mostly ruined."
On April 16, 2007 32 people were shot and killed, and 23 were injured at Virginia Tech University before the shooter committed suicide.
User Leagle_Egal was a senior at the time and was only one building over during the shooting.
"Campus was quiet after that," he explains. "It was April and we still had just over a month of classes left, if I recall. We had the option to continue with classes, but were also allowed to take the grade we had as-is if we didn't feel up to coming to campus. A lot of professors gave optional written finals you could submit through email. Most tried coming back to class for a week or so, but no one could take atmosphere for long. Being on campus was sad, tense, and just generally emotional."
DoctorKynes was also a student at Virginia Tech. He explains that he had a hard time being on campus as well.
"Personally, I spent the next few months truly afraid something would happen again. Every time I was in class and heard noises in the hallway, my heart rate would go up and I would breath a little heavier. Eventually, I came to peace with it, and I only rarely have those moments. I put aside a lot of personal anger and conflict that I had prior to the shooting."
Others posters shared memories from lesser-known shootings.
"A Mexican girl got shot in the leg by a rival gang at lunchtime at my high school," wrote one user. "We didn't even go home, only on lockdown for about 45 mins. They hosed off the concrete before second lunch started, and we continued on about our day."
Another user echoed that easily glossed over violence by sharing that he had been present for a lot of school shootings in his lifetime. "I grew up in Oakland and went to public schools," user Khasgul explains. "Shootings were a fact of life. We would usually spend the next week running around all giddy, checking out the bullet holes, guessing what kind of gun it was, and finding out which gang did it and who (if anyone) was going to get shot in revenge. It was like gossip time for us kids."
User Merc_NYC, points out that school violence is not just an American issue. She explains that she witnessed several deaths when her school in Bosnia was bombed multiple times when she was in second grade. "School and community fix what could be fixed," she writes. "Life went on. Education is important."
These are only some of the heart wrenching stories shared in the over 4,900 comments on the thread. A thread that equally highlights the resiliency of young people and the need for gun control.