Cary-based Columbine survivor offering support to families involved in Texas elementary school shooting

25 May 2022

— A Columbine shooting survivor is offering her support to the families involved in Tuesday’s shooting in Texas.

Kacy Johnson said it’s unbearable for her to witness a school shooting again.

“These things continue to happen, and it’s so horrible and so tragic,” she said.

The mother of four elementary-aged children lives in Cary. Johnson said news of another deadly school shooting is a painful reminder of what she experienced as a student.

“It, of course, reminds me a lot of what I went through,” said Johnson. “I remember flashbacks in the library at Columbine and the things I heard.”

Johnson was 17 years old when she was critically injured in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Two teens went on a shooting spree in the school, killing 13 people and hurting more than 20 others before killing themselves.

“I was shot at close range and my right shoulder completely shattered all the bones through my right hand and across my neck. There is just really no reason that I should have survived,” said Johnson.

Mental health counselor Dr. Kamala Uzzell said repeated traumatic events, like Tuesday’s school shooting, can be overwhelming to process.

“These things unfortunately continue to happen,” said Uzzell.

She said there’s no reason to overwhelm yourself with information.

“First, turn the TV off, put down that phone, put down that electronic device outside, get some fresh air, do some things that you enjoy, do some things that get your mind off of the trauma,” said Uzzell.

Uzzell said people shouldn’t overload themselves with information following a tragic event.

“A trauma, such as the mass shootings, they can be overwhelming for our normal capacity, for coping, and so it makes us feel unsafe. It creases our fears and increases our anxiety,” she said.

Uzzell said, while talking to children about tragedies, it’s important to validate their feelings and reassure them of safety plans at school and home.

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“We definitely want to let our young people know that the adults, the people who are in authority, the people who they see every day when they are in the hallways of their schools, that those people are trying to keep them safe,” she said.

Johnson said it took years of healing to be able share her story.

“It took me, I want to say, 30 years to really figure that out for myself. To think, gosh, those boys from Columbine are still getting in my nightmares and still affecting the choices I make with my children, and I didn’t want that to happen anymore,” she said.

Now she’s inspired to offer support to families whose lives will be forever changed.

“There are so many of us from Columbine and other incidents who want to wrap them in our arms, and you know, help them hobble along as they find their feet again,” said Johnson.

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