ST. LOUIS – Many terrified students at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School fled for their lives during Monday’s deadly shooting.
“I made eye contact with him, and I thought at that moment, this is it. My life flashed before my eyes,” said Alex Macias, a CVPA student.
Elijah Pohlman said he never thought he had to send a last message to his loved ones.
“You just don’t expect to text your grandfather at nine in the morning, ‘Hey, there’s gunshots at my school. I don’t know if I’m going to live,'” he said. ‘I’m sorry, and I love you.’”
“I’m grateful. When I was in there, I held onto my Jesus piece and I prayed because there was nothing else I could do, but to pray,” said CVPA student Zariah Taylor.
The traumatic testimony from those inside the school at the time of the shooting will stay with us forever.
“There’s no right emotion to have right now,” said Dr. Eric Spiegel, associate professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis.
Spiegel said people who experience the same trauma do not always share the same symptoms.
“People that go to war, a lot of them come back with PTSD, and they need intensive treatment,” he said. “Some people go through the same situations, and they don’t.”
Spiegel encouraged parents to make it a priority to discuss what happened on Monday with their children.
“If you don’t, they’ve heard about it most likely. They may even be more scared of it,” he said. “If it’s something that’s so bad, you’re not even going to bring it up. You’re not going to touch it. It might be more scary. So make that space you so can maybe correct some of their inaccurate thoughts, gently. And to validate the emotions they’re having, whatever they are.”
“It’s hard to look down the long road. That can be daunting. Just try to get through a moment at a time the best you can,” said Mark Barden.
Barden’s 7-year-old son Daniel was one of 26 students, and staff members killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. He co-founded “Sandy Hook Promise” to educate and empower youth and adults to prevent violence in schools, homes, and communities.
Barden explained how he processed the tragedy almost a decade ago.
“In my experience, it has seemed to be that I’ve needed different support mechanisms at different times along this journey,” he said. “This is almost 10 years for us now. I wasn’t sure that I was being strong enough for my wife and my children while I was processing this to try to help them through it. I would say to folks to give yourself grace and be patient with yourself. Do the best that you can. My heart is with them, if there is ever a role I can play to help them through this process, I am here for them.”