Take Two for December 17, 2012

Columbine survivors on the lasting effects of a school shooting

US-CRIME-SCHOOL SHOOTING

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

People pay their respects at a makeshift shrine to the victims of an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 17, 2012. Funerals began Monday in the little Connecticut town of Newtown after the school massacre that took the lives of 20 small children and six staff, triggering new momentum for a change to America's gun culture.

In 1999, the world looked on with horror as news broke of a school shooting at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colorado.  Two students named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered a total of 12 students and one teacher and injured 21 others.

Stephen Houck was a senior there and now he's a parent of a young child, and Columbine English teacher Paula Reed, who survived the shooting and is still a teacher there. 

We speak to them both about the lasting effects of this kind of tragedy.

What was your reaction to news about the Sandy Hook shooting?
Paula Reed: "There's always a strong reaction whenever there's a school shooting, but I think it was a lot stronger this time around and I think its because the children were so young. My first reaction was always to think about what I know is coming for those people and how much I wish I could spare them that and there's no way to do it, so I just know exactly what they're going through and how long it takes to get past it. So while the rest of the country is talking about healing and then eventually forgetting they'll just be starting to figure out what hit them."

As someone who suffers from PTSD, what would you say to help the survivors cope?
Reed: "I think the thing that I would stress the most was what I desperately needed when [Columbine] first happened, and that was for somebody to promise me that I would survive it. Now when I have problems they're very much linked to a specific trigger and I can take care of it through self-talk or if I need to with medication. When it was first happening I felt like I was drowning and I was sure that I wasn't going to make it and I couldn't see a light, it was so dark. I would tell them, 'I swear to you there's a light, you might not see it and you may not see it for years, but I promise you its there and its worth hanging tough.'"

What are your thoughts on the media coverage of the event?
Reed: "It's actually really helpful when the news headlines fade and the news trucks go home and you can start to take care of each other. The media covers what it can sell, so the more the rest of the country consumes the sensationalist sort of coverage that can go on, I certainly believe that news stories should be covered, but there is a strand that's very sensationalist and asks young traumatized children to tell the world how they feel and it feeds on people and it's cruel. The more people consume that, the more it gets put on the air. If people turn off the TV turn off the radio turn off the print media that sensationalizes it, then think we're going to go back to a more sane coverage that's not damaging to the people who went through it."

Reed was found through our Public Insight Network. Click here for more information on how to get involved and become a source.


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