A Columbine Survivor Gives Florida Students This 1 Piece of Life-Changing Advice

When a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students and faculty feared for their lives during yet another mass school shooting in 2018. As renewed talk of legislation takes place, it doesn’t change the fact that 17 passed away from the event. And the students have to live with terrifying memories of what went on that day.

Now, survivors of the infamous 1999 Columbine High School massacre are reaching out to Florida students to share their thoughts and feelings. Here’s what the Columbine survivors have to say, including the most important advice of all.

1. A survivor shot at Columbine High School says she played dead to survive

Kacey Johnson in a living room chair.

She devoted her life to helping other victims. | The Denver Channel via YouTube

Kacey Johnson was a junior at Columbine High School when two fellow students stormed the school with guns, Fox 8 reports. She said one of the shooters shot her at close range, which hit her in the neck, hand, and shoulder. She pretended to be dead and hoped the shooter would move on, which worked to her advantage.

Now, Johnson says she became a nurse so she could help others in need. When she reached out to the Florida students, she said she wanted to be there with them during this time because “there’s only a small few of us who really know.”

Next: Here’s why Johnson won’t homeschool her kids even after what she’s been through. 

2. Johnson says we shouldn’t live a life of fear, no matter what’s happening

Kacey Johnson sitting during a Fox interview.

She hopes to motivate those who live in fear. | Fox 8 News Cleveland via YouTube

“It seems as though those of us who went through Columbine were almost like the starters of the club, and now we have the responsibility to help these people through [the motions],” Johnson says. Denver 7 reports the Columbine survivor still experiences PTSD symptoms from the attack.

Fox 8 reports she says it’s hard every single day to send her kids off to school knowing what dangers lurk. And she even debated homeschooling. But she knew that was wrong, since she didn’t want to raise her kids out of fear.

Next: The active shooter drills in high schools concern this Columbine survivor. 

3. This Columbine survivor suggests shooting drills could have a negative impact

Columbine High School.

This survivor thinks shooting drills could lead to emotional distress. | Wellesenterprises/Getty Images

Samantha Haviland, a student attending Columbine High School during the shooting and now a director of counseling support services, spoke to NPR regarding the Florida incident. Haviland says she aims to create a community where students feel as if they can speak up when they see something. She also comments that while active shooter drills are useful, they may also induce panic.

Haviland notes students aren’t told when a drill will take place, which may trigger some who have already been through trauma. “We’ve seen students go through all kinds of emotional reactions during drills … you really don’t know what’s happening.”

Next: This former Columbine student had friends and family die during the shooting.

4. And a student who lost his sister at Columbine has this advice

Craig Scott sitting during an interview.

He hopes to see things improve in the future. | CNN via YouTube

Craig Scott watched his friends get shot in high school back in 1999, and his sister also didn’t make it out alive. But instead of harboring resentment and anger, he tells the Florida students to hold onto hope during these dark times, Denver 7 reports.

Scott and his family speak to schools across the country to share their message of compassion and hope to honor his sister’s life. And in light of the Florida shooting, Scott says, “It strengthens my resolve to say, OK, there are problems, there are some real negative things happening with kids, but there’s also real answers.”

Next: This is the one piece of advice Florida survivors need to hear. 

5. Life-changing advice: This survivor says ignoring emotional pain can destroy you

Austin Eubanks during an interview segment.

Eubanks was traumatized after experiencing a shooting first-hand. | The Denver Channel via YouTube

Austin Eubanks was hiding under a table in the library when the shooters entered and opened fire, The Guardian reports. Eubanks made it out alive, though he did suffer gunshot wounds to his hand and knee. His best friend who was next to him, however, didn’t live through that day.

Eubanks became addicted to painkillers shortly after the shooting, and it took him over 12 years to get clean. If there’s any advice he can offer to the Florida kids, it’s that they have to feel, understand, and deal with their emotional pain head-on. “[Y]ou have to have the courage to sit in and feel it, and if you can do that long enough, you will come out on the other side,” Eubanks says.

Next: Eubanks is hopeful, but he has concerns regarding the future. 

6. Eubanks fears nothing’s going to change

Austin smiling in an old photograph.

The traumatic experience affected him greatly. | The Denver Channel via YouTube

So, how do we stop these mass killings from occurring? Eubanks doesn’t have the answer, but he does suggest that the government needs to do more research into why these shootings keep happening, The Guardian notes.

Eubanks suggests there’s a common thread amongst those who choose to shoot through schools, and “nobody’s talking about it.” He says “isolation, loneliness, and adverse childhood experiences” all contribute to the violent rampages, and there’s a lot to be studied here.

Next: Current students are speaking out and taking a stand against school shootings. 

7. The ‘post-Columbine generation’ is pressing for a brighter future

Student mourners comforting each other.

These students are looking for solutions. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Guardian calls those in high school today the “post-Columbine generation.” All of these kids were born after Columbine happened and have since gone through active shooter drills and seen news story after news story of the latest school shootings. And now, these students are taking a stand.

Students from Stoneman Douglas are organizing a march on Washington, D.C., and a National Walk Out is also planned on the 20th anniversary of Columbine. Many are calling for stricter gun laws and claim they won’t return to school until legislation is passed.

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