I am a survivor of a school shooting.

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

Here is a picture take by a news person of my mom hugging me after she found me
[mom and me ](http://imgur.com/a/d5TR8)

And here is a picture of me now holding my school ID

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.

Thank you.

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  • 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?

    Edit: ‘

  • When you look back at the teacher pulling you into the classroom and preventing you from checking on your friends, is it more of a source of gratitude or frustration/anger for you?

    I wish you the very best.

    EDIT: OP’s answer below…

    >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 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?

  • Did you know the shooter personally at all?

  • Hey thanks for sharing this. I am also a school shooting survivor, I was actually shot. Silverado Middle School in Napa Ca in 1992. 1st period science class and a student pulls a .357 and shoots me and another student. I have all the newspaper articles saved, I still remember every second of it. I am 39 years old now and realize very much that this has affected me greatly. I get flashbacks when I smell fireworks. Have you talked about this with a therapist? I found that I didn’t want to until many years later. At 14 I did not have the capacity to deal with it.

  • 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 remember this vividly because I teach at a school down in Seattle and we had some students with friends and relatives at MPHS. This event prompted our school to develop a more robust emergency response plan, hire 24/7 security guards, and train some of the teachers in psychological first aid.

    It’s incredibly helpful to hear you tell your experience of these events and, though I hope I never have to support students who have been in your shoes, I now feel more prepared to. I hope all the best for you and I really encourage you to explore writing as an option in your future, you’ve got some serious talent!

    How did the culture of your school change after the shooting? Could the school and/or your teachers have done anything more or differently after words?

  • Do you relive this every time you see another school shooting on the news?

    I lost 5 classmates 9 years ago in a school shooting. I get sick, furious, and tears in my eyes every god damned time another one happens. I think back to all the crying (teachers and students alike), trying to start classes back up and go on with life. It’s like it happened yesterday.

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this and join a growing club that should never exist.

  • Were you offered counseling services? Are you able to receive ongoing support for your PTSD?

  • 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?

  • Hi, and thank you so much for sharing your story. I am a graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck, Class of 2005, and this was very terrifying to read, being able to see in my own mind the exact places you described. I know the church, I know the campus; I have years worth of memories from MPHS. I am so sorry that your memories will include the terrible things that happened that day. Did you move because of the shooting? Before the shooting, no one had ever heard of our school, now when I google it there are endless shooting related articles. I hope you can find help for the effects of trauma, there are many options. Don’t be afraid to try them, your mental health is worth working for. On a personal note, I lost my mother to a terrible disease two months after my 21st birthday. It was by far the worst thing that had happened to me, and I have had many terrible days/weeks/months because of it. Know that in time your symptoms will probably lessen. Also, it will no longer dominate your thoughts the way I’m sure it can now. Honestly, it might take lots of time for that to happen. But knowing it will happen makes dealing with it until then easier. Also, don’t let this person’s actions diminish your ability to see beauty in this world or connect with other people. Lastly, when those bad times and thoughts come around, it’s 100% OK to distract yourself from them. Try movies, try hanging with friends, anything to keep yourself from dwelling on negative thoughts that don’t serve you. To be clear I’m not saying you shouldn’t process your thoughts and emotions in a healthy way like through a counselor, I’m talking about getting by, day-to-day, minute-to-minute. I truly wish you the best and thank you once again for sharing, I greatly appreciated it.

  • 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?

  • Do you think your life can ever go back to the way it was before? Or at least similar?

  • 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.

  • I know I am late to the thread, but I did want to reach out to you. I am a survivor of a mass shooting. The only reason I am alive is the shooter ran out of bullets before getting to me. The person next to me wasn’t so lucky. I have been diagnosed with panic disorder, depression, acute stress disorder which turned to PTSD. It does get better. Slowly. It might not seem like it from the inside, and others around you may notice it before you do, but it does get better. Just believe it does.

    I still don’t fully feel safe. I still have many triggers that may never fully go away. But you will keep going and find things to keep you going.

    Feel free to reach out to me if you ever want to talk more.

    So here’s a question. What type of things do you find yourself enjoying lately? Any good movies of food?

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  • Was the shooter’s intention/reason ever revealed?

  • What are your thoughts on gun control and mental health care before and after the shooting?

  • What are your thoughts on School Shooting Memes?

  • you write extremely well, and described the fear and emotion (or lack of) so beautifully i’m so sorry you had to go through this. how has your family handled the aftermath? how do your mother and brothers cope?

  • Why did that teacher not let you go? Were you not close to being out and safe?

  • Looks like the shooter killed himself after his massacre. Do you have any thoughts about him? If you could ask him or tell him one thing today, what would you do?

  • 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

    Edit: Spelling

  • Fello South Carolinian here! Has moving to Charleston helped you cope with the horror you went through? Im hoping the culture and beach life has really helped you.

  • 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??

  • Hey OP,

    Thank you for speaking with all of us. What kind of things make you feel better when you’re suffering from PTSD bouts?

  • You know what’s really fucked up? I have absolutely no recollection of this shooting. None whatsoever. I just read through the Wikipedia page and a couple other news articles, but nothing rang a bell. It’s incredible how in the US we’ve become so desensitized to mass shootings that I can’t even recall one that happened less than 3 years ago

  • First off thanks for sharing your story OP. This reminds me of a shooting in my home town when I was in elementary school, particularly the part about the fire alarm. It’s been nearly 20 years since the event, but I know one girl who periodically still struggles with it (she saw the worst). I went to a neighboring school and several students would transfer there. http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=3717 On a happier note, my question is what are you most looking forward to in college?

  • As a Canadian… I just need to address the fucked-up-ness of this:

    > 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.

    I will never, ever, ever be able to wrap my head around the idea of performance and/or class based funding for education. Is this a really common thing in the US?

    Anyway, OP, I’m sorry this happened to you and the others. I hope you continue on your path to healing and can one day find peace. I’m curious how your political views have formed since this happened to you… What did you think about the inevitable gun-control debate that always arises after situations like this? Do you feel that it is inappropriate to bring political topics to the forefront when such a tragedy takes place?

  • Did many of the other students stay at the school or move away? I don’t know if I’d be able to stay.

    Also, your writing was beautiful. 🙂

  • This was all very heartbreaking and incredibly well written, Thankyou for the insight.

    Can you walk me through what your relationships have been like after the shooting?

    I hope your week is great, and I hope therapy is working out well

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