Unsplash | kyo azuma

People Who Have Survived A School Shooting Share Their Stories

There are no words that can accurately describe the impact that a tragedy such as a school shooting can have on a community and in turn the world. It is hauntingly terrifying and traumatic for those involved as well as their family members.

One person took to Reddit to find out first hand what it was like for those who have survived such tragedies, by asking, "People who have survived school shootings, what was it like?"

The post received a plethora of responses from people who shared their own horrific and heartbreaking stories, some of which have been collected below.

Please be aware that these stories contain shocking details that may be upsetting to some.

Protected By The Teacher

Unsplash | Jeffrey Hamilton

"My freshman year of high school 2013, on our first Thursday back after winter break a student showed up to school late with a shotgun.

"He walked into his first-period class and targeted students who had bullied him. The entire campus was on lockdown for what felt like hours, one thing that has stuck with me was my first-period English teacher grabbing a pair of scissors and telling us that he was prepared to do what he had to do to keep us safe.

"This man was married with kids but was letting us know in what was probably the scariest experience of his life that he would make the ultimate sacrifice if it meant keeping us safe. Thankfully it never came to that but it's still hard to imagine what it must have felt like to decide then and there that his students were worth dying for." — MortaleWombat

Lots of people commented on this story to share their praise for this man for making the choice to keep his class safe, even if it meant putting himself in danger.

UCLA, 2016

Instagram | ucla

"I was at UCLA during the shooting in 2016. It was 'only' a disgruntled grad student shooting his advisor and then himself, but we didn’t know that at the time. Everyone was assuming it was a mass... I was walking back to my apartment just off campus when the notification went out that there were reports of gunshots and to get inside because campus was locking down. I finished walking home and turned on the news with some friends. I had other friends who were hiding in classrooms.

"The craziest part was the amount of misinformation going around on social media and in various group messages, I was a part of... There were reports of more people shot and multiple shooters in a coordinated attack around various parts of campus and such. I’m not sure how much of that was fabricated maliciously and how much started with someone seeing a plainclothes officer with a gun or something and the story snowballing from there." — R10Ender

This person said that they called their mother after the event, and that their mother had wanted to call them earlier but she didn't want their phone to ring while they were hiding.

The Day They Changed From Child To Adult

Unsplash | Joel Overbeck

"I was a student at Virginia Tech during the 2007 massacre. I wasn't directly in the fire or anything, just a student in the dorms. It was very surreal. That morning my friends and I sat in the dorms watching the news evolve on campus. It started off saying one or two injured -- at that point, we didn't make too much of the situation. I remember the newscaster saying at one point that the new updates were over 20 fatalities(the final count was 32), and we all just froze.

"As the day evolved we reached out to our friends to make sure they were okay, but cell service was very spotty. I had a very uneasy feeling that a somewhat peripheral friend of mine was in danger and tried to text her, it turns out she was shot(but survived). Another of our friends was shot and killed [...]

"That day, I'll always say, is the day I grew from a child to adult. I changed in ways both positive and negative. I made new bonds with my fellow classmates but felt isolated from some other people. It was definitely the defining experience of my young adulthood. For a long time, I didn't want to talk about these experiences with anyone. Now, I try and speak more openly about it because I am trying to advocate for a better future." — DoctorKynes

Unsettling Gallows Humor

Unsplash | Kristina Tripkovic

"I was around for Elliot Roger's shooting at UCSB. There are a few things that I remember being surprising:

"The sense of humor. This was not everyone, but I remember a couple of people making 'finger gun' gestures at each other. I think this as because the event lasted a while and spread over the Isla Vista area, so there was a general discomfort wherever you were. I think people were coping with the stress however you could. Gallows humor, basically.

"The awkwardness of trying to console someone who just saw their friends shot or where shot at themselves. If you have ever been in a social situation where you didn't know what to say, add in the fact that whatever you say might permanently affect the life of the person you are talking to." — arbitrarion

This person also said that another strange thing is how "famous" the school became, and how uneasy it was adjusting to that fact.

"Never Felt Threatened"

Unsplash | Feliphe Schiarolli

"I was in the room when one student shot another at our high school then ran out of the building. This was the 80's so there was no lockdown procedure, we all just left the building in various states of shock. I never felt threatened, so it really didn't affect me too badly.

"The victim lived and the shooter spent several years in the Indiana Youth Center with Mike Tyson and one of my best friends from high school. That's a bizarre sentence for you" — HomerS1314

It's hard for us to imagine a time where schools wouldn't have a procedure for this kind of thing. How times change.

"I'm Still Dealing With It Today"

Unsplash | Hannah Busing

"I got to school at probably around 7:10 because I am Mormon so I had a class called seminary (basically bible study) and so we ended and I walked to school. I walked in and went towards the back of campus ish, but I could still see where it took place in the quad. I’m just chilling there with my friends when I look over and see some kid walking really quickly towards the middle of the quad and it happened so quickly. he was crying I think, he ripped his backpack around and I just knew there something was wrong.

"He reached in and shot the girl in front of him (i won’t say her name but I knew her quite well) and she was instantly dead I’m pretty sure. at that point, I don’t remember much. Scariest moment of my life." — EnemyExplicit

This person explained that they are still unable to get passed this at times. They wrote that there are still things such as noises which can send them back to this moment.

Shooting At The Sister School

Unsplash | Jon Tyson

"I went to school next to a school shooting. It was our 'sister school' so everyone from School A kinda knew everyone from School B. I remember watching all the teachers in our back hallway gather around and huddle together [...] I turned to the kid next to me and said 'something serious is happening' and he laughed and said I was paranoid. They tried to hide the whole fact, but since so many people had connections to the other school, we all found out quickly. We went on 'loose lockdown' so no going outside, which I still find odd, but whatever. Four kids died. Personally, I wasn't in the shooting, but I am still a little shaken.

"That previous weekend, I met a kid who was very very cute and I was debating getting his number. I didn't because I was shy. But, the morning it happened, I was thinking of him and what if we had been texting and blah blah because I'm 14 and had major crushes. I came to find out he was one of the kids who died. That still kinda haunts me." — thisismycourage

"Now I'm Desensitized"

Instagram | natinas

"I was in the stem shooting. We heard five shots and sat in a corner for a little while then some yelling I heard some guy moaning (in pain) outside then a bullet can through the wall and scratched my friend we left to another corner then there were two more shots. I was texting friends and family and my friend texted me wanna play 8 Ball Pool.

"The cops removed us there was blood in the halls we stood around in the cold for a couple hours. A friend of mine got shot in the leg 3 times though she's ok now both of them are. After I was kinda messed up a few days after which is kinda weird because of how close I was but I don't wanna sound bad but I'm fine now just like completely desensitized." — TheAgentOfPie

There were some people who wrote that sharing their experiences anonymously online helped them to deal with their struggles.

"Time Seemed To Go Super Slow"

Unsplash | Andy Art

"I was at Columbine during the shooting. I was in the cafeteria when it started (just outside) and I thought it was a senior prank at first. After I realized it was not, I ran and hid. I was in there for a couple hours just kinda huddling in a corner with some students and teachers. I wasn't really scared, it was more an adrenaline rush that lasted for what seemed like days. Time seemed to go super slow and it was honestly boring. It is a weird feeling that I can't describe.

"I was more worried about my friends and gf than myself. I was close to a lot of pipebombs and gunshots, but never really felt like I was going to get hit in any way.

"My parents took it harder than I did, especially my mom. She was in shock and crying uncontrollably when she picked me up. My brother was at the feeder middle school that got locked down. He didn't want to get stuck at school so he walked home. When we got home, he was playing video games like nothing happened." — knightfall

This person went on to say that there was a lot of people who were never the same again. In particular, they said that there were a lot of teachers who were visibly affected by the attack.

Causing Suicide

Unsplash | Jose Fontano

"This doesn't count as a school shooting, but there was a point in my middle school in 8th grade, where someone brought containers of ethanol and he also had locks and chains, and he was planning on locking the school in and setting it on fire. My friend found out and told him. He was arrested and we were evacuated. All the police released were the containers of ethanol were found, but they were keeping the chains and locks secret.

"This summer, (the incident was last year) the person who was gonna burn the school down, harassed and threatened my friend so much, that he shot himself. I will never forget my friend's name or the student's name. My friend was a good person and didn't tell anyone what was happening until his last few days. We had a memorial for him at the school, but it still isn't the same without him." — Sethyboi12354

Apparently, the police only charged this person with a misdemeanor, and he is still in high school.

Gang-Related Shooting

Unsplash | TJ Dragotta

"The year was 2004, no social media at the time, the school was surrounded by a lot of bad neighborhoods and we had a lot of gang members attending that school.

"In my country, each class has its own basketball team and we do a tournament to see which class can win the basketball crown [...] rivalries started and some issues started to rise. One of the kids in 11th grade was going out with one of the wealthiest girls in the school and another guy who was in 10th grade was jealous of him, both of them were from different gangs.

"A game between both classes started and the guy from 10th grade foul the other guy really hard and there was a big fight 1 week after that rumors started going around that when they returned there was going to be a big war against both rival gangs after school.

"The day came and everybody was anxious, school had just finished and we hear a lot of people outside of school, suddenly I hear the shooting and sadly the guys from 11th grade was shot and killed after school." — harolillo

It is so sad to hear about events such as these where the people involved had their whole lives ahead of them.

"I Had No Idea He Got Shot On The Way To My Class"

Unsplash | Green Chameleon

"Back in 1996, I was a doctoral student at Penn State when one of the few women shooters killed a couple of students and wounded two or three others. I was ta'ing for a class and one of the students shot (wounded) was on their way to my recitation. I had no idea at the time, as I usually showed up to class 20 minutes early, so I did not hear the shots and a student tackled her and prevented her from doing more damage in 30 seconds.

"Fast forward a year and the student who was wounded walked into my office and asked if they could spend a few minutes talking about that day. That experience was tough and very surreal, as I had no idea he got shot on the way to my class. It was the first week or so in the semester and I had not gotten to know my students' names at that point." — jpw14268

Another person who was there during this attack posted that they suffered from terrible survivor's guilt. They also thanked the campus' mental health services for helping them so much.

"I Still Think About It From Time To Time"

Unsplash | Mitchell Griest

"I graduated from UCSB in 2016 and was a sophomore in 2014 when the shooting happened on May 23, 2014. That year, I finally moved from the dorms to an apartment complex right outside campus in Isla Vista. I lived above the 7-11 where the shooter drove by in his vehicle and starting shooting. On that day though, I was at my friend's apartment in Goleta (Abrego Road) for a small study session. I was on my way out and got ready to bike home when I heard gunshots from the street over.

"I immediately ran back inside, told everyone to be quiet and closed the blinds. We waited out the whole night - listening to the UCSB radio, messaging family, and checking up with classmates/friends. It was a rough night trying to piece together what was happening and only until after hours of waiting did we get the whole story. We were shocked. I still think about it from time to time and am thankful I wasn’t in my apartment or biking to my apartment when he was driving right by my apartment building." — annab640

"Nowadays She Really Only Keeps To Herself"

Unsplash | Tammy Gann

"It wasn't me, but a very close friend of mine was there during the Santa Fe shootings in Texas a while back and she hasn't been the same since. I think 10 people were killed that day and nowadays anytime she hears anything that remotely resembles a gunshot she nearly has a panic attack. I feel really horrible for her because she used to be a really fun outgoing person and nowadays she really only keeps to herself." — August_Heart7567

Sounds can be quite a prolific trigger for people with PTSD. A few people posted on this thread to say that they could no longer play video-games with guns due to the sound effects.


Unsplash | Clem Onojeghuo

"In 2016 I was at a school shooting and the victim died a few feet away from me. I ran to safety as soon as I heard multiple shots.

"I can hardly walk into an enclosed space without having a thought that something may happen. I'm now hyper-vigilant about 1) where the nearest exit is if someone comes in, 2) any loud noise makes me panic (boom or alarm), and I constantly look around me and monitor people’s suspicious behaviors in an attempt to determine if anyone around me might be 'bad'." — iSHIHtzuNOT93

This person said that they think they are still suffering from PTSD, and from this explanation, it sounds like they might be correct. Hopefully, this person seeks help from a therapist, friend, or relative to get through this as best as they can.

Saved By A Fellow Student

Unsplash | Joshua Hoehne

"I was in a room just outside the lobby where the SPU shooting took place. Very surreal, numb moment. Saw more than most as far as damage goes, but luckily we had a student John Meis decided to disarm and hold the shooter before he could do more. Never thought it would happen at a small school's engineering building." — 9zero7

Thank goodness for people like these who step up and try to help those around them at times such as these. It's impossible to fathom the amount of courage required.

"The Following Few Days Were Weird"

Instagram | sixstringsofmusic

"Syracuse Junior High shooting in '98, I was in 7th grade. I was in history class when the vice principal came over the intercom saying "Seahawk, Seahawk, Seahawk" the teacher told us to leave everything behind and line up by the door. She peaked her head out the door, opened it and told us to follow her quietly. [We] were led to the elementary school across the street where they had us pack into the gym.

"About 30min later the principal came in with a few police officers and informed us that there is currently a student who has taken hostages in the cafeteria at our school [...] After about an hour we were told that everything was clear and our parents were there to pick us up [...] we needed to sign out before we leave. The following few days were weird. The school was mostly empty and we had to attend trauma seminars in the gym. We would have held them in the cafeteria, but that's where the shooter had taken hostages. After about a month everything was back to normal." — kaotic_red

"Changed Me Forever"

Obed Hernández | Unsplash

"Survivor of the SHS shooting here. I was 9 at the time and in fourth grade. I was in the gym [...] All the sudden we heard a loud BANG noise, and everyone looked towards the door. At first, we shrugged it off as the janitor dropping something in the hallway, but after the second and third bangs, we were ushered into the corner and told to be very quiet while my teacher ran and locked the doors. We were confused but unbothered at first, but the longer it went on the more worried we became. The loudspeaker crackled on and we heard muffled voices and muffled bangs, then silence. Years later I was told it was our principal and the office staff trying to warn us but were killed.

"That experience has changed me forever and while the effects I had initially (nightmares, anxiety, etc) have lessened, I still feel them. I and many others suffer from PTSD and I don't think a day goes by where I don't think about it. While I did not know everyone who passed personally, I have seen the toll it took on my community and feel for their families and friends deeply." — commander-lib

Shot By Their Best Friend

Unsplash | kyo azuma

"There was a shooting at my school a year after I graduated. (freeman high school shooting in Rockford WA). The shooter (Caleb Sharpe) came into the school with an AR-15 and a pistol. The AR jammed (thank God) so he pulls out his pistol and starts shooting. 3 kids got shot but lived and 1 kid died from a shot to the head because he came up to Caleb and told him to put the gun down and it's not worth it... The kid that died was the shooters best friend and he was everyone's friend because he was really nice and loved to hang out with everyone. We miss you Sam." — jinx-_loves-you

The image of a friend trying to talk down their friend only for this to be their fate is utterly heartbreaking.

Life Altering

Joseph Gonzalez | Unsplash

"I was a first responder to Sandy Hook. I was a volunteer paramedic that worked 30+ miles from the school but was dispatched anyways regardless of the distance and response time because we were up next once the local EMS crews were out of service.

"If I had to describe the scene, I'd say life-altering. I thought I had EMS stories to make your skin crawl before sandy but now? I can't even come close. The screams of parents and teachers and other students are still burned into my mind. The visual scene? I couldn’t close my eyes for weeks without seeing bodies. My short answer? You technically survive the shooting (in my case, the aftermath) but I’ll never be the same." — scrunchieonmywrist

This person went on to say that they are still having weekly therapy to help them get passed this experience.