One Mom To Others: Coping With School Shootings

Dec 15, 2012
Originally published on December 15, 2012 7:04 pm



If you're just joining us, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

There are moments that Lori Haas would rather not relive. But the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary brought back a flood of emotions and grief. Five years ago, her daughter, Emily, was shot and nearly killed during a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. That massacre was the worst of its kind in U.S. history. Her mother, Lori, now works with parents who go through similar trauma.

We spoke with Lori earlier today and we asked her what went through her mind when she heard about the attack in Newtown, Connecticut.

LORI HAAS: Just agony for those parents. Just a sense of dread and agony knowing what they were facing and knowing what they were likely going to be dealing with. Truthfully, the news was - at the time that I heard about it, at first, I think they were reporting three or four dead. And the official word of the number of deaths was so slow to come that I knew it was likely - the number was going to climb.

That was similar to what happened at Virginia Tech, you know, when they're closed mouth, it means something bad and it means they're trying to get their details and ducks in a row before they're going to make an announcement. And it just made me sick.

RAZ: Lori, how is your daughter, Emily, doing now?

HAAS: Emily is a remarkable young woman. She went back to college, went back to Virginia Tech and got her degree. I'm proud to say and share that all 17 of the Virginia Tech students who were shot and injured went back and got their degrees. She's recently married and teaching school. And in the aftermath of a mass shooting like this is particularly difficult and emotional and fraught with many, many ups and downs.

But she's strong, and she was very brave that day. She kept the phone hidden from the shooter that day and kept the police on the line for the entire 20-minute ordeal. They had knowledge of what was going on by virtue of her bravery. So if she could get through that, I think she can get through anything.

RAZ: Well, I imagine - I can't imagine how difficult this is for you as a survivor of something like Virginia Tech, a parent of a survivor.

HAAS: It just takes you back to those, you know, hard, difficult, long, hollow days, and achy hearts and sick stomachs. And you just know those families are just suffering so much more than I ever suffered. And I'm one of the lucky ones. You know, it was a hard, hard journey to heal, but, you know, she's with me. And these parents and these families, you know, who were affected - from the adults who were killed also - it's big, gaping holes in their lives that will never be filled, you know?

So they need our prayers and our compassion. And then frankly, they need all Americans to take action. You know, we can honor those who've been killed and pray for them and support them. But the best thing we can do is take action and honor them by not letting this happen again, by demanding that our elected leaders do something about the gun violence in this country. We must demand better from them.

RAZ: Lori Haas is a mother of a Virginia Tech shooting survivor and an advocate with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Lori Haas, thank you.

HAAS: You're welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.