Heather Martin knows what she will be doing on Valentine’s Day, the first anniversary of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. She will plans to text and call some of the students who survived to let them know she’s thinking of them as they remember the 17 people who died and contemplate how the attack changed their own lives.
Martin understands what they’re going through. She was a senior at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., two decades ago when two students shot and killed 12 students and a teacher. She survived by hiding in a small office with dozens of others.
It took years for Martin to come to grips with her experience. After a 2012 shooting in an Aurora, Colo., theater, she and another Columbine survivor started The Rebels Project, a support group for victims of mass shootings.
Martin, who works in Aurora as a high school English teacher, says survivors share some common reactions to their trauma—anger, guilt, even embarrassment. She told Education Week, “I want survivors to know that it gets better and better.”
And she has advice for Parkland students and educators who will be marking the first anniversary of the shooting. “Don’t be hard on yourself,” says Martin, “Whatever you decide to do that day, that’s right for you in the moment.”
Columbine survivors have connected with Parkland survivors in many ways. Stoneman Douglas journalism teacher Sarah Lerner says educators who were in the building that day have offered support to her and her colleagues as they teach students who are processing trauma. Some former Columbine students have joined Parkland students in advocacy for new gun laws. And last year, survivor Jami Amo told Education Week of her work to build to connect survivors of the two attacks in penpal relationships.
Related reading on the Parkland school shooting anniversary:
- School shootings change both the lives of those directly affected and conversations about larger issues happening all over the country. In this audio gallery, people ranging from policy advocates to grieving teachers share how the Parkland school shooting has changed the debate and their own lives.
- Patrick Petty lost his sister Alaina in the Stoneman Douglas shooting, and he still attends school there. Hear how Petty, a “pro-2nd Amendment guy” who believes in listening to the other side, has grieved while the attack became central to the gun debate.
- Manuel Oliver lost his son Joaquin in the Parkland shooting. Watch how his creative approach to his activism for new gun laws puts his son front and center.
- Parkland victims’ families are pushing for accountability after they say local officials mishandled the shooting and the events that led up to it.
- A Columbine Survivor shares her efforts to form a penpal network, linking her peers with Stoneman Douglas students. “We know that the real challenge is a year from now, five years from now when people aren’t talking about it,” Amo said of the Columbine survivors. “We want to help them. We will always be 19 years ahead of them.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.