I am a survivor of a school shooting.
My name is Meaghan. I attended Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington from 2013-2015. I was born and raised in Washington state, before eventually moving to Charleston, South Carolina at the end of my Sophomore year.
The shooting happened during my Sophomore year. School was somewhat enjoyable at best for me, I never really liked school or even the social aspect of it. I constantly begged my parents to let me do online school, more so after the shooting though.
Despite all that, the kids I went to school with were people I grew up with, people that I had once made a connection with in the past. We were a pretty small community. I also had a solid group of friends at the time that I still talk to today. My classes weren't bad either, although geometry was a huge struggle. I liked my teachers, we were all pretty close. My school was laid back, not too tight on the rules and everyone generally got along pretty well.
The morning of the shooting was like any other. Wake up 10 minutes before school, my brother yelling up the stairwell telling me to get my ass in the car or he'd leave me. We lived about a mile from the school, so the ride was fairly short. We were probably listening to some shitty rap song as we zig-zagged across speed bumps and screeched into the parking lot a couple of minutes before class. I rushed to first period, English 2 Honors, and plopped down in my seat, late as always.
I don't remember that morning being much different from any other, class was the same as always. I trudged onto second period, some sort of computer class. That class wasn't interesting so I never paid much attention. Then third period, health class with one of my favorite teachers. Again, a normal day.
Our classes were shortened, since it was a half day. Our school had half days every Friday due to budget cuts. We weren't exactly the wealthiest community. After third period I had first lunch, I walked into the "small" lunchroom around 10:00 A.M and sat down, talking to my boyfriend at the time on the phone. My friends didn't have first lunch that day, so I sat alone, blabbering on the phone.
If I remember correctly around 10:20 A.M, the fire alarm went off. Everyone evacuated the building as expected. I remember laughing with one of my brothers friends, joking about how it was probably one of the seniors pulling a prank. Then I heard a bang. It sounded pretty far off, so I didn't think about it. Then I heard more... that was when fear finally settled in.
It all happened within a matter of minutes. At 10:24 A.M the first shot happened. I remember running like my life depended on it. I was aiming for the parking lot. A lot of my brothers friends were heading to their cars to leave, I so badly wanted to go with them. I wanted to go to safety. I wanted to go home.
I never made it to the parking lot. My limbs were heavy with the thought that someone I know might be dead. My heart hurt from beating so hard. I think I cried. I don't know. I just know that I was afraid. I still feel that fear today.
One of the Spanish teachers who shared a room with my first period teacher grabbed me so hard it knocked the wind out of me. I remember begging him to let me go, to let me go to my brothers friends. I had known them my whole life practically, they were my brothers too. I wanted my brothers to take me away from the horrific tragedy that had just occurred seconds ago.
He refused, and shoved me into the room and locked the door behind us. Standing there, in that room, the stench of fear was so tangible I still see it every fucking day. It was like my life was in slow motion. I scanned the room, kids were huddled in corners, shoved under desks. The air was so thick I thought I was choking. It felt like that room was 100 degrees. There was probably 50 or so students in a room meant for 25.
I found a spot under a large table right underneath the only window in that room. I looked to my left and there was a group of freshman girls huddled by the teachers desk. I remember one girl hysterically crying, swearing up and down that her best friend was dead. I think that's when It finally sunk in.
I smushed myself under that table between two guys I didn't know. I was still on my phone with my at-the-time boyfriend, and he swore up and down that he wouldn't hang up, that he would sit through this with me. Despite the disaster that relationship was, I will always remember him talking me through that entire experience and keeping me somewhat sane for the time being. I will forever appreciate that.
The texts finally started coming in from all of my family members. "Are you okay?" "Are you hurt?" I didn't really know how to respond, but I did. I was huddled under that desk for over two hours, watching the newscasts quietly with hushed voices thick with tears. The anxiety, the fear, that's all I could feel.
Finally, the police knocked on the door and demanded that we open up. They came in, guns raised and flipped on the lights. I remember standing up and covering my eyes only to be told to hold my hands high in the air. I trembled as a police man pointed his gun near me, my heart couldn't beat any faster in that moment. We were told to grab our cell phones only and to exit the room in a orderly, single filed line. We ran out of the room, flanked by policeman.
That first breath of fresh air wasn't refreshing. It was heavy, filled with sorrow and agony. We ran, and ran until we were escorted on a school bus and sent off to a church not far from the school. The ride there was a blur, and being there was one too. We had to sign our name in check in, and go out front to wait for our parents.
I'm not religious, but I do remember walking through that church and just hoping that someone would rid my body of the crippling anxiety I felt. It's still there, it never went away.
I hugged some of my teachers and cried with them, holding hands with people I hadn't spoken to in years and telling them that it'll all be okay. Eventually I was outside waiting for my mom behind a line of police tape. I saw her and she pulled me through the tape and hugged me so hard. I heard her sobs in my ear as she shook and petted my head. Her heart was absolutely broken, mine was too. I didn't know how to feel, I didn't cry with her, I wanted to. I just couldn't feel anymore. I lost a part of myself that day that I'll never get back.
We then retrieved my brother and my dad came to pick us all up, and we went home. At home I sat on the couch and watched the on-going news reports with my family. Nobody said a word. Later on that night I found out one of my childhood friend, Zoe, had died in the shooting. I didn't cry then either. I went up to my room and didn't come back out the rest of the night.
We had the next week off of school after the shooting. Our community really came together after everything. Nothing really helped my healing process though, it's still an on-going thing.
I now suffer from PTSD (diagnosed by a psycho-therapist). This shooting has affected my life in so many ways. Any loud noise sends my pulse skyrocketing. A book slamming on a desk, loud beeping sounds, alarms, fire trucks, police sirens, banging noises, all of this immediately sends me back to that initial moment when the fear struck me. I can't trust people.
The unpredictability of that day has forever traumatized me. I so badly want people in my life to understand that it's not their fault that I have an extremely hard time trusting. It’s not my fault. I am constantly hyper aware of my surroundings, I notice every little detail. My body is always tense, I don't know if I'll ever truly relax again. Anxiety is a daily thing, I'm not sure if it'll go away anytime soon.
I lost some of myself that day, and it was replaced with fear and anxiety and intense trust issues. As unfortunate as that is, it's who I am. I cannot tell you how many nights I have spent on the bathroom floor, crying, wheezing, hurting and just wishing that things were different. But they aren't, they never will be. The only thing I can do now is move forward.
I am a survivor of a school shooting.
I will always be afraid.
Here is a picture of my school ID from that year ID
Here is a picture take by a news person of my mom hugging me after she found me mom and me
And here is a picture of me now holding my school ID me
Also here is the link to the Wikipedia article about the shooting. It's not proof, just added in case someone wanted to see it https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marysville_Pilchuck_High_School_shooting
Please leave any questions you have, I'd love to try and answer them.
I'll never forget being scheduled to play against your school team, barely over 1 week after this happened. Our coaches took us aside and told us about the situation... Obviously we all knew about the shooting, but I was personally sure that the game would be canceled.
It was not. They asked us to try to understand the gravity of the tragedy, and told us the best thing we could do in our situation is play our best, keep in kind spirits, be a good sport so that the school could start to return to normal again.
I remember thinking that was so fucked up, but i knew it was a decision from higher up. And in retrospect, canceling the game would not make things better.
Our team brought roses and attached names of each player from the roster, and at the end of the game when we were shook hands, gave one to each player of your volleyball team. I hugged the other D.S. when i saw the look on her face--
I really understand my coaches' wisdom now in playing that game. It was really only 1 week later, but we all wanted to do anything we could to help. Everything my coach told to my team about showing solidarity, I understood better than I had before.
This was just the junior varsity game, and it all happened so fast, but I'll never forget it. It was actually a really great, close game. God bless you all
How did you feel moving to a new school? Did you move immediately after the incident or at the end of the year?
Thank you so much for your comment. And thank you to you and your wonderful school for being so supportive. I hope you're well!
Moving to a new school was hard, I had to leave behind childhood friends and the place I grew up. I moved at the end of the year.
Again, thank you. You're a wonderful person.
Were you offered counseling services? Are you able to receive ongoing support for your PTSD?
Counselors, therapy dogs and all sorts of people were at the school for the remainder of the year. I only really took advantage of the therapy dogs. I would skip class just to hangout with them.
Right now I currently see a psycho-therapist and personally choose to no longer take medication. (I tried Prozac, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin)
I'm very sorry for your experience. PTSD and anxiety can cripple someone mentally and I'm touched to hear you tell your story openly, thank you. The picture of you and your mom is powerful.
What are your plans for the future? Are you working, going to college?
I graduated this year. Im planning on attending community college in the fall. Not sure what I want to study.
Thank you for your kind words.
I recently moved away from Bellingham (to Charleston, oddly enough) and I remember hearing about this and feeling totally heartbroken for you guys. How are your fellow students/survivors doing these days?
Your writing is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story, I can imagine that was difficult.
Thank you for the kind comment.
A lot of the kids I grew up with also suffer from PTSD or other forms of mental illness due to the shooting. We've all graduated now and have moved on, but it's still a very strong thought in our minds. I can't speak for everyone though.
What is the process of visitors being able to enter your school? Usually for us, you can just enter through the main office without a problem. After the shooting, did this change?
I left the school after sophomore year but initially after the shooting I didn't really notice much more security other than a couple more police officers.
Thank you for sharing this personal account. Do you think it was best that the teacher grabbed you and brought you to the room or would it have been better to keep running to the parking lot with your brother and his friends?
I think I would have a lot less issues if I was able to leave when i wanted to. Most of the fear comes from sitting in that room for hours.
Thank you for sharing this. I know this is something tragic, but you wrote it beautifully. What has been the most helpful technique or skill you've learned from therapy?
You're very kind, thank you.
I haven't really found anything that has helped a lot. It's a very slow process. I think one thing I always try to remember though is if I feel panicked I try to ground myself and look at my surroundings and remind myself that I'm safe.
What are your thoughts on gun control and mental health care before and after the shooting?
I struggle with forming an opinion on gun control, honestly that mostly stems from not being super educated on the subject.
As far as mental health goes, I think they did all they could after the shooting. Nobody really knew what was best for everyone.
Thank you for sharing this, even though i know this is hard for you. Your story is so strong that it made me cry on the metro. I just want to say that your'e an survivor, you're strong, and you're loved. And trust me, I know it is difficult to feel like it. My question is harsh and i don't know if I should even ask this, but here we go.
Have you ever felt driven to suicide?
Best of luck in your life, i promise it will get better <3
The answer, sadly, is yes.
Not directly driven from the idea of the shooting itself, but from the PTSD that has come from it.
Thank you very much for your kind words.
Did you know the shooter personally at all?
No, I had heard about him and he was related to some of the kids I went to elementary school with though.
So first you're outside because of a fire alarm, then a couple minutes later you hear gunshots and start running towards the parking lot, then you're being grabbed and dragged into a classroom by a spanish teacher? Why would a teacher take someone outside running away from the school back inside towards the shooter??
I'm sorry, I didn't really explain the schools layout.
We were an outdoor campus, so everything was outside until you entered a lunchroom or classroom. I wanted to go to the parking lot because it seemed the safest to me because the shooter was inside the lunchroom. The teacher grabbed me and pulled me inside, thinking it would be safer than running outside where the shooter could run out of the lunchroom and hurt me too.
Do you think your life can ever go back to the way it was before? Or at least similar?
I don't think so.
The person I was minutes before the shooting and the person I am now are completely different.
Why did that teacher not let you go? Were you not close to being out and safe?
I think it's was part of the procedure to just get as many kids inside and in a locked classroom.
What are your thoughts on School Shooting Memes?
I don't really have an opinion about them either way, I try to laugh about it but it always kinda sends me back for a second.
I'm confused...I may just misunderstanding you, though.
Were you in the cafeteria when the first shots happened (said you got there at 10, shooting happened at 10:36)? Because they wouldn't have sounded far away...the shooting happened IN the cafeteria.
I'm sorry for not clarifying. I was in the second cafeteria that was a little further down.
Why would you want to relive this? I don't understand.
Edit: it's an AM A, why are so many people mad? It was just a question.
I posted to help get it off my chest. I have never truly explained to someone what I felt and went through that day. I also thought if someone out there, even if it was just one person, had been through something similar... I thought we could relate.
Ever considered moving to another country IE Australia or somewhere less gun run?
I've considered moving to Australia or New Zealand. I just have no idea how to move to another country since I'm a US citizen. If anyone has information on how to immigrate to another country and how that process works please please let me know.
Are you only mad at the shooter, or also mad at the people who made him shoot other people?
No, I am not mad. I feel sorry that he felt so angry and upset that he felt shooting other people was the only way to solve the problem.
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I honestly don't even know what karma does on Reddit... I'm sorry if you feel I was attention seeking. Not my intention at all.
Why should we care?
I'm not asking people to care.
I'm simply reaching out in hopes that someone can relate to my situation.