A Letter to the Parkland Students

Ten years. Ten years have passed. Ten years and look how far we have come, On February 14th 2008, the iPhone had just come out a year prior, there was no snapchat, no Instagram, and we were in the early stages of FACEBOOK and Twitter. Phones were becoming smarter, and many of us were still using flip phones. And when the shooting at Northern Illinois University happened on February 14th, 2008, phone signals were not able to handle the pure chaos of a tragedy. So who am I in all this? Where was I? Why am Important?

My name is Harold Ng, and on that day, I was a junior at Northern Illinois University taking a class on oceanography. Valentine’s Day was just another day.  I wish it meant more to me, but for me it was just that. Another day. Then, chaos struck at around 3:00pm. I could not grasp the severity of the situation. Looking back, I didn’t think the situation was actually happening, this couldn’t be real. There was a gunman in my school. 

Everything was a blur, and I do mean everything. And when reality finally slowed down around me, the first thing I wondered was-where did the teacher go? Where was my friend?  They were gone, somewhere, somehow.  I got up and ran out of the door. I didn’t know I was hit. I felt the brisk, winter chill scrapping the back of the head making me colder than normal. Not thinking much of it, the chills got stronger with each individual step closer to the dormitories. as I slicked back my hair, my beautiful hair, my treasure, the feature I think is my best... my hair. Slicked back, looking at my hands, I saw crimson red. Was it love, Valentine’s Day love? HELL NO! It was blood, MY BLOOD. I had been shot.

I arrived at Neptune dormitories right across from Cole Hall, where many students were in disarray. Some students didn’t know what was happening.  I tried to speak, but stumbled to say my words as the pain began to intensify. I staggered over to a nearby stairwell.  I remember people gathering around me. They searched their pockets for candy to help my sugar levels stabilize. A fellow student with a background as a military medic, Jeff Merkel, came to my aid. He snapped out of his reporter mode, and back to his military training. Jeff wrapped my head in gauze and received assistance from other students who assisted  with  Pepsi and Snickers until my levels stabilized.

I’m writing today to the students at Parkland and those who have come after them.

I’m telling you my story to let you know that you are not alone. You are now part of a family that unfortunately keeps growing. There are many of us, too many of us. Together, we will move on and become stronger together. As a survivor, I offer you the following advice:

Find your own timeline. You will always be healing, so don’t let anyone tell you that you are weak, even as time moves on, because sometimes we need to step backwards to step forward. Anything can trigger panic or fear inside of you, don’t be ashamed of that. Go by your own timeline, not someone else’s. Each person is different in how and when they begin and continue to heal.  

Find a hobby, get involved. Keep your mind active with things that excite you.

And of course don’t be ashamed to seek help, even if it’s just for moral support. It’s hard enough to heal, but to do it alone is even more difficult. There are so many resources out there, you just have to look for them. There are networks and groups that help survivors like you. I even created my own thing to get our minds away from the chaos named “TZP aka THE ZMOLDER PROJECT.” 

Talk about your trauma or write about it. I wrote a book titled "One Shot, One Life," and it helped me tremendously. My book, along with the Zmolder Project, is my way of making a difference while at the same time, processing what had happened to me.

Ten years ago, we had ours, and exactly ten years later as we were just starting to move on, we heard your cries. As sad as I was, I was proud to see you standing up. It looks like you guys have this under control. Stronger than ever; together we stand. But enough is enough. And we shouldn’t lose focus.  The answer shouldn't be only about gun laws or mental illness. It should be about acceptance and learning as we adapt to everyday change. Some people just don't want to be helped, and I understand that, but as long as we do our best, we have done what we can. 

In these times you may feel lost, but know that you will grow stronger every day. Remember to live every day like it’s your last, do things you want, and be true to yourself. And always remember, you have a whole network of people here for you.

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