MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — Cries for help were heard across the nation this weekend as students work through difficult emotions and grief following recent school shootings.
Paducah City Commissioner Sarah Stewart Holland was a student at Heath High School when the shooting happened there on Dec. 1, 1997. She said her heart breaks for students who’ve survived recent shootings because of her experience 20 years ago. Holland said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder 10 years after the Heath shooting, and she knows the road ahead for some survivors won’t be easy.
“We had a lot of death that year in Heath High School beyond the shooting. Some alumni that passed away, some people that no longer attended the school, and then of course the shooting,” Holland said.
Twenty years later, sitting in her home, Holland reflects on the tragedy that changed her life forever.
“That’s the saddest, most tragic aspect of experiencing something as a young adult or a child. As you gain additional maturity and additional emotional skills, you sort of have to reprocess it, because it’s like you realize this additional level of sadness and you realize this additional level of loss. And you are more mature, and you understand more of what was lost. So, it’s sort of a reprocessing, reprocessing, and reprocessing,”
Those are some of the same emotions she believes students who survived school shootings like the one at Marshall County High School will go through as they get older. She said support from parents, family, friends, and professional counselors will be crucial.
“It’s not going to be over in a month or six months, because like I said, as they grow older and as they gain additional skills and understand these experiences, they’re going to have to deal with it again and leaving space for that. You know, if somebody wants to talk about it a year from now when the rest of us are ready to move on, then we need to let them talk about it,” Holland said.
She also said it’s important that we listen to the students who are voicing their concerns about school safety and find a way to move forward together.
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