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Teaching After Witnessing a School Shooting

Echoes of Gunfire

Edward Mooney, Jr.

Imagine the hours and weeks after you've witnessed a school shooting. You run the emotional gamut between disorientation and severe anxiety. When you return to the classroom, you're unsure how to cope. Your classroom used to be a safe space; is it still? In this book, the experience of two teachers before, during and after they witnessed school shootings are analyzed to determine the effects of these incidents on their lives. In one case, a teacher who observed a shooting of one student by another, struggled with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her issues, along with actions by school administration, led to her psychological disability. In the second case, at a different school, another teacher watched a gunman randomly firing at students; he was able to continue teaching. A comparison helps to understand the psychological and organizational factors that affect educators who witnessed a school shooting.

This book would be critical in courses training school administrators, and for those teaching graduate research courses. In addition, this would be useful for mental health professionals and emergency responders seeking to get a glimpse into what teachers who witness school shootings are going through.

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Introduction

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For the last two years, I’ve been searching for an old friend – her name is Melissa. I tried every method possible, short of hiring a private detective. I made numerous phone calls, and sent dozens of email messages. I searched online. I even pulled out my old research notes, and found the list of people that I had worked with during my project. I sent messages via social media, such as Facebook – but I got no responses. It didn’t seem possible that I couldn’t find anyone who knew how to contact her. I was perplexed.

In despair, I closed the research folder on my computer. I felt like I was at a dead end. The phone range as I was staring at the papers outlining a book on witnessing school shootings.

I felt some hope when I heard the name of my caller – she was a teacher who had been at the school where Michelle taught – on that fateful day. I had spoken to her once. Janice sounded the same. I told her I wanted to reconnect with Melissa, as I knew a difficult anniversary was coming – it had been ten years since she witnessed the shooting at her school. I wanted to see how she was doing.

Janice informed me that she didn’t know where she was, but she’d try to get a message to her, with my contact information. After a pause, I had to ask the question.

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