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Reconstruction: Surviving Mass Violence Essay

1512 words - 6 pages

Craig Scott was just 16 years old when he crowded underneath a desk with his two friends while classmates, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, acted out a real-life version of a Hollywood scene of ruthless murder, shouting lines from their favorite movie while gunning down kids and teachers in the corridors of Columbine High. Craig remembers the shouting and laughter of the shooters as they burst into the library armed with sawed-off shotguns, a handgun and a 9mm semi-automatic carbine. Craig recalls how his friends were both shot, one slumped dead on either side of him, their blood soaking into his clothes. Inexplicably, Craig was uninjured, physically at least. “I was experiencing so much fear I thought my heart was going to stop beating,” he recalls (Day, 2009). Later, Craig would learn how his sister was gunned down while eating lunch on the lawn. Rachel, 17, died instantly, the first of 13 victims of mass violence who lost their lives that day in the, now infamous, massacre known simply as “Columbine.” Speaking at an event marking the tenth anniversary of that terrorizing violence, Craig says he is still reliving the horror, “…going through it…over and over again” (Day, 2009). Craig echoes the reality faced by all victims of violent trauma, and particularly those of mass violence; “My life changed that day” (Day, 2009). Victims of violent trauma face many challenges, both immediately following the initial event and long-term. Though the extent of recovery varies for individuals and may include physical, emotional, and financial trauma, victims of violence often struggle with management of the psychological impact of their experience. Like Craig, many victims of mass violence find coping with the impact of trauma challenging; it can be an ongoing battle, even long after the precipitating event.
One of the first challenges faced by all victims of traumatic violence, and particularly in incidents of mass violence, is dealing with the impact of shock. When a person is subjected to sudden and acute stress, as happens with random or arbitrary mass violence, the shocking onset and overwhelming intensity is beyond the scope of the person’s experience. Boundaries have not been merely breached, but obliterated, leaving a person completely “undone,” ripped from the moorings of security and the world as he/she had known it. Curt Drennen, PsyD, RN, a clinical psychologist and manager of Disaster Behavioral Health Services, Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, notes that mass violence induces trauma that is different, the impact for victims is often compounded and complicated, and “…normalcy is shattered” (Jackson, 2013). This can leave victims feeling disoriented, confused, and afraid. It is in this way that impact can be compounded and complicated. “Following such a traumatic event, you also have to restructure how you perceive the world and your expectation of safety,” Drennen...

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