Columbine survivor says UNCC students will face ‘daily choice’ to turn away from fear

May 2, 2019

While many people can sympathize with the horror of a mass shooting, few know first-hand what the victims of the shooting on the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus are going through.

Kasey Johnson said the gift of time has helped her heal after she survived the Columbine school shooting in 1999. She said the shooting will always be part of her life, but it doesn’t traumatize her anymore.

“Sometimes it’s a daily choice along the journey to choose the freedom from fear or to jump over the wall of PTSD and find healing,” she said.

Johnson, who now lives in Cary, said that April 20, 1999 was the only day she stayed at school for lunch instead of going home. She was in the library when the shooting started.

“It was fast and immediate, and we hid and a short time later, there was a boy behind me pointing a gun at my head,” she recalled.

Johnson, who refuses to speak the shooter’s name, said the boy fired the gun.

“It hit me here and completely shattered the bones in my shoulder, my hand and went straight across my neck,” she said.

Johnson recently published a book about that fateful experience called “Over the Shoulder,” which chronicles her journey to reclaim her life.

“The journey through the grief is going to look different for each person,” she said.

Johnson said the survivors of the UNC Charlotte shooting are about to embark on a difficult journey that will take time.

“Sometimes you think you get to a good enough spot of healing and then something pulls you back, a flashback or a memory and it’s just another opportunity for further healing, is how I look at it,” she said.

She said that she has viewed life differently since surviving Columbine.

“I really don’t go a day without appreciating that I almost didn’t get this chance to live this beautiful life and I don’t want to take it for granted,” she said.

Johnson returned to Colorado last month to mark the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, and reunited with a former classmate who helped save her life.