Dear Recent Mass Shooting Survivors — Love, A Fellow Survivor

Numb. Dead. Unable to feel. Feeling EVERYTHING. Feeling weird grief that comes in waves then goes and you feel numb again. Can’t sleep. Can’t eat. Replaying scenes. Nothing feels real. Scared at loud noises. Scared at people acting shady. Freaked out in crowds. Songs make you cry til 4am. Wandering in a fog. What is a body, even? I don’t feel mine.

They will tell you over and over again to let you know if there is “anything I can do, let me know.” But you have no idea what they can do, or what you need, because you can’t feel much of anything.

You are grateful when a friend doesn’t ask — he just brings over movies and puts them on and sits there and watches them with you, quietly. Finally, one person who doesn’t have to ask. One less thing to take care of.

They will ask you how you are, and they will cry in your arms while you stand woodenly, and when you ask how they are, they will react in shock that you could even ask such a question “when you’ve survived such a tragedy.”

They will tell you that your peace means “you’re so strong.” You will think that you are not strong and you don’t know why people keep telling you this.

Mainly, you are shocked that your sisters (or friends, teachers, loved ones) are dead.

The media will get in your face. They’ll hound you for interviews. They want to know what it was like to survive a shooting. They want to broadcast the horror; you want to tell them that no one should ever know how that horror feels. Good Morning America will send a basket to the hospital where your father is. You’ll have to come in a back entrance to avoid them. They will call your phones.

Your phone. You’ll be trying to field a million text messages. You’ll talk to relatives you haven’t heard from in years. Everyone is so sorry. Everyone is horrified. You say thank you a million times but the words almost lose their meaning. They ask you what happened and you repeat it, for the thousandth time, the words feeling unreal when they come out of your mouth.

You are numb. Or bawling. Or feeling heavy. So heavy. Unbearably heavy. How could you ever feel un-heavy again? Or normal again? You wake up the next day wondering if other friends have died overnight. Part of you doesn’t want to live anymore. It’s too hard.

The images are constantly replaying and you almost want to put a hand over your eyes to block them. You feel cold, so cold. You want a blanket just to wrap around you for a moment. You want someone else to do your life.

No one will understand how you are feeling, unless they were there (or unless they were somewhere similar). So many people will say things that sound incredibly stupid.


For 5 years, I wished to find a community of survivors who knew what I went through. Finally, after Newtown, I saw a news article talking about The Rebels Project. 5 years I carried all of the above around, and more. Experiences that no one else could understand. Things I could not talk to my immediate family about, even though they were also there. Finally I had a place to lay it down.

I’m just letting you know, for a second, that you’re not alone. There’s more of us out here who get it (Search The Rebels Project on Facebook and you’ll find us). And when you have a second to breathe by yourself again, come find us. We’ll be waiting for you with open arms. We’ll walk you through.

I’ll walk you through myself. I’ve been there. I’m still here. And you will be, too.

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Terror Attack or Shooting? – A Poem

Trigger Warning: Mass shootings, gun violence, graphic depictions of violence.
I wrote this poem in response to the talk about the Pulse Orlando shooting being a terror attack because it was perpetrated by “possibly a Muslim”. As a shooting survivor, I have a lot of feelings about that.

Do not tell me what is a terror attack or what isn’t.
You do not know the ice of hearing windows shatter
You do not know the terror of hearing sister is shot
You know nothing of what bullets sound like hitting human flesh
or the screaming of your sisters
or the desperation of being on a phone to a 911 operative
begging them to come because my sisters have been shot
because my twin is lying in front of me on the floor of a minivan
with blood streaming out her nose
and she looks like she’s asleep but she won’t wake up
Do not tell me it is not terror
to try to hide behind a leather seat
to see bullets hitting windshield
to not see where they are coming from
to watch father fall to ground from one piercing him
to want it all to stop, stop, stop
but the bullets are ringing over and over and over
there is so much noise
time is so slow but it keeps going
do not tell me it is not terror
to rip a scarf from your body to try to stop twin sister’s bleeding
to have to look your twin over for an exit wound
do not tell me it is not terror to not have her answer you
to hear your mother saying “I can’t find a bullet hole
I can’t find one, oh God I can’t find one”
do not tell me it is no terror to stumble out of the car
to see other sister on the ground
with face blue from lack of oxygen
to feel your heart fall apart into your stomach as you know she is dying
to have to run from her because the shooter could be returning
to feel your soul is being ripped from your body
because your sisters’ souls are leaving you
do not tell me it is not terror
to wait for news of which hospitals they went to
to know on the way there that twin sister is gone
because you don’t feel her soul next to yours anymore
to watch a policeman speak what you already know while he is trying not to cry
do not tell me it is not terror
when father comes out of surgery, silently looks at you all
looking for the people missing
looks at you and asks where your twin is
and mother is quiet and says nothing so your mouth has to open
you say the worst words you have ever said
“Dad, Stephanie is gone.”
Do not tell me it is not terror
to stand by other sister’s bedside begging for her to come back to you
to sing all of her favorite songs in a desperate attempt for the bullet not to win
to try to cry it out of her heart and take the bullet into your own heart instead
to ask her to please not leave you alone here
do not tell me it is not terror to have the doctors
come out to waiting room to tell you that other sister is gone
that she has left you here alone despite all your begging

you say that a mass shooting is not a terror attack
unless it happens to have a Muslim face behind it
I want to tell you to fuck yourself and wait until you live one.