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A teacher who was at the Parkland shooting offers advice for the Uvalde survivors

People sit Feb. 14 in front of a photo display of the 17 people killed four years earlier during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Joe Raedle
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People sit Feb. 14 in front of a photo display of the 17 people killed four years earlier during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Updated June 3, 2022 at 11:32 AM ET

Kim Krawczyk was teaching a math lesson for her freshman students on a Wednesday in 2018 when shots rang out in the building. The attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., would leave 14 students and three staff members dead.

While no shots were fired into her classroom that day, she and her students were traumatized, and she says school shootings like the one last week in Uvalde, Texas, resurface the experience for them.

"We know exactly what it feels like, to have that fear, to have that panic, to hold out hope. To lose our friends and colleagues," she says. "You just want to believe as a survivor that no one will ever have to go through this again."

Unfortunately, many families and teachers have in the four years since the Parkland shooting, and more likely will in the future.

"In the coming days you will work your schedules around funerals. You'll have to fill out victim reports and organize fundraisers. You'll struggle to get out of bed and forget what day it is," Krawczyk wrote in an essay for Business Insider. "You will walk your dog. You will hate God; you will thank God. You will find the fire to move forward."

She says her experience suggests recovery will be a monthslong process for those who were at Robb Elementary School during the Uvalde shooting.

"We were a mess. Trying to get therapy, trying to get help and trying to get someone to understand us," she tells NPR's Morning Edition. "I always did the best I could — I stayed in contact with the families where I could — but I was trying to get myself out of that shock."

In the end, she says she and her students found that talking to each other was something that helped a lot. She's still in contact with many of them.

There wasn't much training available for dealing with trauma at the time of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, she says, but there will be a lot the staff and students of Robb Elementary will need help coping with.

"Survivor guilt. I don't know that the little kids will have it. The teenagers had it. I have it," Krawczyk says. "The families are going to need counseling. Those kids are going to need a safe, normal space to reconnect."

And that place can't be back at school, she says — something she learned in her classroom in the aftermath of the Parkland attack.

"Because I was teaching right before everything happened, my voice would be a trigger sometimes to the kids, and they would literally start crying," she says.

In terms of prevention, Krawczyk is in favor of making it harder to get the kind of weapons the shooters in Parkland and Uvalde used, including higher age limits — "an 18-year-old is a child," she says.

And if conservative politicians insist on focusing on mental health, she says they need to think much, much bigger.

"You want to talk about mental health? It doesn't start with the day that kid shot his grandmother, it doesn't start with the day that kid went and bought those guns," Krawczyk says. "A hundred percent, this kid has been struggling since probably the second grade. But we don't have the finances or the resources to get these kids the help they need when it starts, when they're little."

Until everyone comes together to talk through the problems and find solutions, she says, there's more than enough blame to go around.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.