Wednesday, April 16, 2014
John Christoffersen / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Snowflake artwork adorns windows at the new Sandy Hook Elementary School. Three months after the Newtown massacre, children and teachers who survived remain on edge.
A few teachers have taken short periods of time off. "We understand that this is a trauma that people take different lengths of time to get over and it may re-occur with some memory, so we're trying to be very understanding about that," Robinson said.
Survivors of such shootings can experience nightmares, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance in which they are constantly on the lookout for danger and startled responses, said Russell Jones, a psychology professor at Virginia Tech who counseled survivors of a mass shooting at his school. Between 8 to 15 percent of those who experience traumas such as mass shootings develop PTSD, but about half of them no longer have the symptoms after three months, he said.
Sounds and smells associated with mass shootings can bring back memories of the horror, said Carolyn Mears, author of the book "Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma."
Mears, whose son survived the Columbine shooting, said the high school for years had a sign on its entrance declaring the building a balloon-free school because the popping of balloons sounded like the echo of gunfire. The school also changed the sound of its fire alarm so that students and staff would not be reminded of the sound from the shooting, she said.
"The one message I would give to the parents, the teachers, the community itself it is possible to live through this kind of uncertainty and grief and loss and shattering experience and make a future that holds happiness and joy," Mears said, noting that it will take time.
Brenda Lebinski said she's heard from other parents that some children have outbursts they never had before. When she hears gunshots on TV, Lebinski's daughter tells her mother to turn it off immediately. Lebinski is coping by keeping her daughter busy with sports and other activities.
Another parent of a survivor, Stephen Delgiudice, said his 8-year-old daughter doesn't talk about the shooting, but appears to be doing well.
"The transition has been really nice. They've done everything one can imagine for the kids," Delgiudice said. "So far we're very pleased with the security at the school."
He himself turned to acupuncture and counseling to help him deal with the anger he felt.
"How could someone do this to these children?" Delgiadice said. "How could this happen?"