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© 2019 Amye Archer + Loren Kleinman  |  PRIVACY POLICY

The Little Things

Lily was a 16-year-old student at Marshall County High School on the day of the shooting.

On January 23rd, 2018, my life as I knew it would change forever. On that fateful morning, my friends, family, and community would have to deal with a scar that will never fully heal. 

I arrived to school at 7:57AM, fuming because my little brother refused to wake up, making me nearly late to first block. I had a big test that day, and my main concern was being late and not having time to finish it. 

It’s always the little things that we worry about the most—how our makeup looks, how our outfit looks that day, whether or not we make it to school or work on time. I’m 16, my main concerns are blending into the crowd, getting good grades, and if I did my math homework. 

But on that day, my life took a sharp turn. I was in the car with my mom, sister, and 4-year-old brother and we had just pulled into the parking lot, ready to go into the building and start a day full of dreary classes. Slowly, then all at once, familiar faces came running out of all of the exits in sight—some had looks of pure terror, blood splattering their jeans and shoes, and others looked confused, but still ran because their options were run or get trampled by hundreds of horrified students. 

Teachers were outside, grabbing kids and leading them to the nearest building. Students jumped in cars and hopped over fences, desperately trying to get somewhere safe. 

I froze. My body became rigid, my legs shaking as I tried to comprehend the sight in front of me. I remember my mom asking me, “What’s going on? Why is everyone running?” 

I pulled out my phone, trying to call as many of my friends as I could—no one would answer. “Mom, I think there’s a shooter.” I choked on my words, not wanting to believe them. 

I flung open the door of my mom’s SUV, grabbing people and telling them to get inside. A girl with teary eyes quietly told me, “I thought it was firecrackers. And then everyone ran, and I realized it was gunshots.”

Her words made me break down, as she had confirmed my worst nightmare. None of my friends answered my phone calls. I thought they were dead. My mom drove us to a local bakery, where I sat and watched as the police cars drove by. The employees were all trying to contact their children and relatives. Strangers would come up to me and hug me, trying to give me reassurance that it would all make sense one day. 

In the days following, I stayed close to my friends. When we weren’t together, we were constantly texting each other. I held everyone I loved close, and reminded myself that I will be okay. As I look back on that day, nothing makes sense. I still don’t understand why. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never know. 

Since then, I’ve delved deep into the world of politics. I’ve protested, marched, given speeches, told my story, and co-founded an organization called Youth Pursuit of Tomorrow alongside my friends. This group of teenagers that I'm lucky to call my friends are the strongest people I’ve ever met. We use our experiences and stories to help others who are healing, and reach out to fellow survivors.

I’ve learned to never take anything for granted. Something that may seem like a small thing, like someone paying for your coffee in the morning or a friend asking you to lunch should never be overlooked. I make sure to stay close to my family and friends, and ask for help when I need it. 

To fellow survivors who may be reading this, I need you to know that you will not automatically be normal. Nothing will be normal for a long time. School or work may keep going, but you as a person will change. And that’s okay. It’s okay for you to reach out for help if you’re struggling.