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A Shattering Reality

Student and staff member share first-hand experiences with gun violence

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A Shattering Reality

Chelsea Park, Editor-in-Cheif

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While many are aware of the prevalence of gun violence in America, the issue is a distant reality. Shootings may seem to occur in faraway areas of the country. However, gun related incidents have affected and continue to affect members of the community. Choir teacher Kimberly Modelski and junior Kess Wieser share their personal experiences with shootings and how it has affected their lives.

KESS’ STORY

“Never forget.” It is a phrase often utilized by the masses to show sympathy for those lost in tragedy. A phrase that can often be attached to school shootings, like the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. For some, the phrase is redundant. However, when something so monumental and life-altering happens around you, you can’t forget.

I remember almost everything from Dec. 14, 2012. My fth-grade class was sitting in groups when we were told, that we would have indoor recess. I couldn’t grasp why and ranted to my friends about how unfair this was because I was certain that we would be able to go outside after the snow nally melted. My teacher seemed a little out of our lessons and constantly checked her phone with the same solemn look xed upon her face. My classmates kept getting checked out of school one-by-one until only half of my class was left at the end of the day. I didn’t realize how strange it was because I was only eleven and a lot of stuff went over my head. When I got home, my mother told me what had happened in the most PG manner she could manage. 

I now understood why I didn’t have recess that day. All of the schools in the same district as Sandy Hook were on silent lock down since 10 am that morning, and my school was in that district. Mrs. Minor kept checking her phone to receive updates on the shooting because her daughter was watching the news at home. My classmates kept getting checked out of school by concerned parents, even though the school sent a mass e-mail describing, how actually, if the students could go home in their normal fashion, it would be a safer choice for the students. But the version of the story my mother told me was not completely accurate. The true story about a mentally disturbed individual who shot his own mother at home then proceeded to go to an elementary school where he shot and killed six administrators and 26 seven-year-olds with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle that he shouldn’t have had access to, was something my mother did not want to burden an eleven-year- old girl who still did not know how to divide fractions with. At the time, I did not understand the loss that their families, friends, and the whole community felt that fateful day.

For me, the most impactful part of all of this was the reaction that rippled across the United States. Monroe, the sister town of Newtown, and where I lived for ve years, donated the old middle school, Chalk Hill to Sandy Hook so those students who survived would not have to go back to the same school where their classmates were murdered. The old building got torn down and rebuilt so that the students could nally return in August of 2016. Every day students would have to explain in detail to the of cers stationed there what they were do- ing at school, how long it would take, and etc. Cameras were added at every entrance and main hallway, every door was replaced with new doors that locked automatically to keep intruders out, there was no longer such a thing as propped doors, and substitutes did not have access to keys to rooms to ensure no intruder could ever get in. Things changed, not just physically, it could be felt it in the air. Teachers were not allowed to talk about the shooting to the students, and shooting drills became recurrent. Community support for the victims and their families was a main focus. Donation booths were everywhere, Bella Rosa-(the local Pizza place), even a yearly vigil held in remembrance of those lost and how the community will never forget them. Even former President Obama dropped everything and gave a speech for the families of those lost and for stricter gun laws.

My perspective has blatantly been altered by the event that transpired on Dec. 14, 2012. I was a child when the shooting happened, I didn’t have a political agenda compiled in my mind, I was not some activist for or against anything, I just living my life. Just like those 23 children were trying to do, just like we all do, just like I am still trying to do now. Living life should be the main goal of any man, woman, or child. No citizen, no human being should ever have to be concerned with dying at the hands of a military grade weaponry. No one should be concerned with becoming simply another statistic in history as another gun violence/death per year.

Yes, I will never forget what happened and the aftermath. Nor will I attempt to do so. It is an important part of the past worth remembering and Sandy Hook and all other shootings are an essential part of changing the future.

MRS. MODELSKI’S STORY

I live in Olathe about a mile from the Austin’s Bar and Grill restaurant. My husband Marc, my two daughters Sophia and Helen, and I go there for dinner usually once a week. My dad and his buddies are there almost every evening watching sports and winding down from the work day.

We went to Austin’s as a family on Feb. 22, 2017 for dinner like we had done hundreds of times before. We were sitting together on the bar side of the restaurant at the very 1st table, which is in eye sight of the patio and front door of the restaurant. I overheard that a man had been there earlier and was insulting patrons of Indian descent on the patio. He caused a scene and was asked to leave the restaurant.

We were enjoying ourselves, chit chatting about the day, coloring on the kids menu…etc. About 30 minutes into our dinner we heard a crazy loud explosive sound and I saw the glass wall on the patio shatter. I have never heard the sound of a gunshot ever in my life and I could feel the power of it within my body. Before I even realized what was going on, I heard people screaming, “Get down, he’s got a gun, run, look out!”

My husband sprang to his feet and ipped our table upside down so fast to shield us from the shooter on the patio. I quickly got behind the table and covered my daughters with my body. My daughters kept crying and screaming, “What’s happening, what’s going on?” There was another gunshot at that point. I tried so hard not to show my fear, because I wanted to comfort my kids.

My husband was moving around and trying to see how to escape out of the restaurant. Marc came and grabbed Helen, my younger daughter in his arms and Sophia, my older daughter, quickly followed. For some reason I slowly stood up and felt like I just couldn’t move fast enough. I had lost a shoe and took a moment to gather my cell phone. I realized quickly that I was practically the only one in the restaurant at that point. Soon, I was ushered out the back door by the kitchen by someone I didn’t know.

I noticed that my husband and my daughters were not on that side of the building. I heard that someone had pinned down the shooter on the front side. I was not allowed to run around and try to reconnect with my family. For about 15 minutes, we were separated. I hoped my husband got my girls to a safe area, but didn’t know where and if they did. I kept asking, “Can I please just go nd my kids?” I started crying hysterically at that point and felt trapped.

At some point the shooter got away and I was escorted by police to the front of the restaurant. I saw my family standing right by the many police cars and instantly ran to them. There was blood on the patio and a lot of chaos. An ambulance was there, and I became aware that someone was killed and others were injured.

The moment we got home, my husband turned on the news and the footage and continuing story was on every local channel. I discovered that the shooter was the man that had been dismissed from the restaurant earlier. He came back with a gun in his hand and apparently told the Indian man on the patio to “Get out of my country” before he shot and killed him. I was shocked to discover that the shooter escaped and made it all the way to Clinton, MO, where he later confessed to a bartender at Applebee’s what he had done. I was still in a bit of shock, but immediately went into what I call “Go Mode.” It’s the busy mom mode that often distracts me from something bothering me. I de nitely didn’t sleep much and kept checking my phone for updates on the story. I found comfort, however, in knowing that my entire family was safe in my room.

The aftermath of the event was much more traumatic than I thought it would be. Sophia, who was a 4th grader at the time, began to develop some real unrealistic fears throughout the day, which made it hard for her to make it through a normal day at school without a visit to the nurse or school counselors. She had some major PTSD. Helen was a little bit easier because she was so much younger and didn’t fully grasp everything that happened. I remember Sophia saying very plainly, “It was a hate crime, Mom. People should never hurt others or treat them badly because of their race.” She made me so proud. Her convictions regarding social justice were very evident despite the fact that she was in a state of fear and worry.

I had a really dif cult time at All-State Choir in Wichita which was the day after the shooting and ended up needing to leave the All-State Choir weekend early. I felt a lot of separation anxiety, probably due to the time when I was without my kids, not knowing if everything was okay. I also struggled in public places for a while. Every time I went to a restaurant, grocery store, and even at school, I couldn’t help but look around and wonder if someone was going pull a gun out of nowhere and start shooting. It was a feeling I had never experienced before. It has been over a year and a half, and I still have moments where I feel affected by it. Out of nowhere, I’ll suddenly have a panicked feeling that I’m not safe and that someone could try and hurt me or my children.

The experience I went through de nitely changed me. I am naturally a pretty trusting person and try to always see good in others. Going through this took away some of that in me. I witnessed the evils of humanity in a really personal way and that will forever impact my view on the world.

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