Stronger than Before

March 6, 2017

I could feel a shiver run down my back. My heartbeat was beating faster than a lightning strike. That's when we heard it.

A gunshot.

Everyone panicked, including Mrs. O. Now she was our science teacher. She was always the teacher in the good mood and smile on her face. She was tall, skinny, with straight blonde hair. She seemed to have her entire life planned out, but I don’t think she had planned to experience what was just about to come next. It was too late for them to come over the loudspeaker and to call a shelter in place, there was no admonition. As everyone piled in the corner you could feel their heartbeat. Skin was cold, pulse was going crazy. We could start to hear the footsteps get closer and closer. Heavy footsteps as he was in no hurry.  We heard it again.

Another gunshot.

My heart dropped, my stomach felt like it was on a roller coaster, twisting and turning. It was louder than before so we all knew the gunman was getting closer to the room we were in.
“Sshhh, stay calm.” Mrs. O said, but you could hear the panic in her voice and see the fear in her eyes as for the rest of us.

The door knob started shaking fast.

Mrs. O decided to try and get us all through the window because we all had realized that the he was about to be in the room. We had to react fast. I was one of the furthest ones from the window, I was so afraid. Mrs. O and I were still in the classroom when the door swung open and hit the hard brick wall behind it.

My mind was taken somewhere out of the situation. I was thinking about my childhood. How I had no worries, and I didn’t have a care in the world, I seemed as if I was on cloud nine. One specific thing that had come to my mind was when I was swinging in the backyard, my mother was in the garden, and my dad was mowing the lawn. Everything seemed alright.

My parents, do they know what is happening right now? I had thought to myself. After that I came back to reality.

The man with the gun was in the same room as I was with my teacher, since everyone else made it out of the room. Mrs. O and I just ducked down where we were because if we had tried to go out the window there is more of an open shot for him to shoot both of us. Even though we were ducked down he was still so fixated on me, and I’m not sure why. He put the gun up, and pulled the trigger.

He shot me in my pale, cold, arm. I looked at my arm and saw the wound, I then looked to see if he was still there and he wasn’t.
Mrs. O leaned over to me, “Stay with me here. It’ll be alright, help is on the way.”
I started to become groggy, I didn’t feel any pain at that point. The last thing I remember is a light shining in my eyes as if stars were orbiting in my head, I could tell someone was talking but I couldn’t come up with the words or how to respond, everything seemed as if I had been close up, looking at a screen for hours and hours.

I had woken up and I was in a cold, very bright, hospital. My mom came to my side, “How are you feeling, Sweetie?”
“My arm hurts, mom.” I replied.
I could tell she had been crying, her eyes were puffy and red. We were just staring at each other. I can’t even imagine the pain and horror my parents had felt when they heard there was a shooting. The silence was broken when my dad walked in, followed by the doctor, he give me more pain medication, as he was doing that he was talking to my parents, “For as well as she is doing we would like to send her home. Now she does have a gunshot wound and still needs to be incredibly careful. Stay on the couch and watch tv. Do not over do anything.” I could tell my parents were relieved.

On our way home mom started talking about going to see a  psychologist to help me deal with what I went through. I remember having a nightmare when I was still in the hospital about the man and playing in slow motion all that had happened.  My parents decided on going to see someone because depending on how it goes, I might be able to go back to a public school or I might need to be homeschooled if I just can’t get this behind me. I said I would go just to see if it would really help me because I wanted to get back after this whole thing. I wanted to show people that I was strong enough to go back after the trauma because when I was in school I stayed to myself. I was quiet, didn’t answer unless I was called on, and one time I was told I am like a baby bird. Weak and fragile, I wanted to show people that I really wasn’t. My mom started talking, “That is good honey, and I am glad you said you would go because I already scheduled you an appointment with her for tomorrow” as she said with a big smile on her face.

The next day had rolled around and I was nervous to talk about what happened. Yeah, I had talked about it to my parents but in the movies that I have seen, psychologists want to know every little detail and I don’t know if I will be able to talk about it in that great of detail without breaking down.

We had just pulled into the driveway of the office, “Mom, I am scared. What if I can’t talk and all I do is stutter?”
“Honey, you will do fine. I promise. She understands what you went through and she will understand if you can’t talk about it right away. It will always be a touchy subject for you.” 
We walked into the office and you could feel the welcoming rush overcome your body. It was a very content feeling. The physcologists name was Stephanie. She was a little short, had brown hair, blue eyes, and a huge smile! I felt like I could actually be comfortable talking to her instead of being worried, which was an amazing feeling.

My mom said she would sit in the room if I wanted, or she would just wait out in the lobby. I chose her to come with me, I never wanted to be alone at this point. As we walked into her room Stephanie started talking to me, “Hi Josie. I know you know why you are here. To help you with the shooting that had taken place. I completely understand if there are times when you just can't talk about it. Just know that I am here to help you. Feel free to tell me if there is anything on your mind.” My mom stayed quiet the entire time, she told me that she wanted me to feel like she wasn’t even there before we had gone in. At times I would look over at it seemed she wasn’t even paying attention. She would be on her phone, reading a book, and one time it looked like she was talking to the birds outside the window.

The appointment was only about an hour and we didn’t even talk about what happened. We just talked about my everyday life. What I do everyday, what I like to do in my freetime, my friends, and other just random stuff. I noticed that we never talked about school though. After we left I brought it up to my mom, and she said that probably the next time we will talk about school and start actually talk about the shooting because she just didn’t want to jump right into it. Just like when you go swimming. Normally you just don’t jump right in, most of the time you feel the water first.

The next few days were rough. We talked about it a lot and I broke down a few times. But I was no longer having nightmares about what happened, which was a good thing. I have wanted to go back to school the day after it happened, but I obviously couldn't. Stephanie had asked me, “If you were to go back to school right now, would you be scared of it happening again? Would you be scared at all? Would you want someone there with you?...” She kept asking me all these questions and my answer to almost all of them was no. I wanted to go back and not be scared. I wanted to go back and be just a normal kid again. That is what my body wanted but I couldn't say the same for my mind. I couldn’t control whether or not those thoughts ran through my mind, but I knew I would always have them back there. I had to overcome the fears that were building up within me.

When we had gotten home my mom had asked me if I have thought about going back to my school or being homeschooled because she was willing to do that for me. Helping me succeed in my education even if I wasn’t mentally stable to go back to a public school.

I was so ready to go back.

This was my chance to come back from a hard situation and prove to all the people that had called me “weak”, that I am actually not. That I am strong enough to come back after such a horrendous incident. My mom started talking again, “Your father and I will talk about this tonight. If things go over well, we will see what we can do with the school. If you do end up going back and start to feel uncomfortable, do not hesitate to call me or your father to come get you, because we will. We do not want to push this right away if you cannot handle it. “Thank you mom! I will, I promise.” I was so ecstatic.

The next morning I had woken up and I ran into my parents room. I had woke mom up and she started smiling instantly because she knew why I ran in here, “Honey, your dad and I talked, and we think it would be okay if you went back. But before you do I need to talk to the school and let them now. Is there anything you want me to tell them?” “No! I am all set.” I couldn’t have been any happier at the moment.

After the long day of waiting, mom called me into her room, “So, I talked to the school today and they said whenever you are ready you can come back, and they said if you need anything you can go to the office and they can do just about anything.” The feeling I had inside me I couldn’t even describe. It felt like my stomach was filled with about thousand butterflies.
“Mom, can I go back tomorrow then?”
“Well, Josie, I think you should take one more day off. Tomorrow you and I will go to the mall. You can get new clothes and then we will go to Staples and get any school supplies you need. I know you have said you wanted to be a ‘new person’ when you went back so whatever you want to do, I will support you.”
I was actually glad because I do want some new clothes and school supplies. I thought to myself, it feels almost weird to be this happy. I haven’t been this happy since before the shooting. 

The next day rolled around and I was mostly excited just to spend time with my mom and not get all the new stuff, but that sure does help. When you’re having fun time does fly, and that time sure did fly today. It seemed we were only there shopping for like two hours but it was really seven hours that we were. We had gotten back home and all I wanted to do was go to bed because I knew I was going to wake up and get ready to go to school. Which was all I wanted.

The night had passed quickly. I jumped out of bed and got dressed instantly, I then went into the bathroom, brushed my hair and teeth, then went downstairs to eat breakfast. Mom was already down there. After I ate she asked if I was ready to go, I didn’t even answer her but I ran to the car.

We had gotten to school and I jumped out of the car. I went straight to see Mrs. O. And there she was, standing there. I ran up and hugged her, she started talking as we were hugging “Hi Josie! How are you? I have missed you!”
“I’m good. I am super glad I am back.”
My heart was pounding so fast. Surprisingly I had no one come up to me and ask me anything. Of course people had told me they were glad to have me back but they never asked anything else. Which I was thankful for because the last thing I wanted to do was to talk about it. I was happy with the way my classmates were treating me. I believe that the “weak and fragile” Josie has come to an end.

The following week we had a follow up appointment with Stephanie. She had asked me how everything was going and school couldn't have been going any better. I felt like a brand new person. I wasn't as quiet as I was before. The shooting had changed me, but I saw it as in a good way. I had the chance to become a brand new person, and I took advantage of it. I told myself, everything happens for a reason Josie.

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