school shootings

The Class of 1946–2018

Twenty-seven school-shooting survivors bare their scars and bear witness.

Since being shot five times, Parkland survivor Anthony Borges has worn a colostomy bag. Photo: Michael Avedon
Since being shot five times, Parkland survivor Anthony Borges has worn a colostomy bag. Photo: Michael Avedon
Since being shot five times, Parkland survivor Anthony Borges has worn a colostomy bag. Photo: Michael Avedon

Americans have short memories. But here we are in an election year. The same year in which a former student murdered 17 of his classmates in Parkland, Florida — and another student killed ten in Texas. In which at least 75 other shootings in schools barely made the news and then slipped right out of it (which often happens when victims are people of color).

It’s stunning to think that these shootings — these attacks on children — aren’t being talked about constantly.

One of the first recorded American school shootings took place in 1840.
But the first high-school shooting that truly lodged itself in our consciousness was Columbine, in 1999, when two students wearing trench coats fatally shot 13 of their classmates. It took 45 minutes for a SWAT team to go in. As the AP would note, those officers “had never trained for what they found: No hostages. No demands. Just killing.” Now students have so many drills that some Parkland victims thought, This must be fake.

There have been more mass school-shooting deaths in the past 18 years than in all of the 20th century. The long list of casualties includes a classroom full of first-graders, an event that shocked the nation — but not enough. Deadlier weapons have become more available, bullets can be ordered online.

So why don’t we talk about this all the time? Partly because it scares us. And partly because the problem can seem so intractable, even as polls show majority support for measures that could curb the violence.

In the midst of this amnesia, we wanted to conduct an exercise in remembrance, seeking out the survivors of school ­shootings from as far back as we could find them. What, we wondered, could their memories teach us about our inattention? The people whose bodies — in many cases — won’t let them forget.

A Grim Education: Survival Stories From School Shootings, 72 Years In The Making

February 14, 2018

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School | Parkland, Florida | 17 Killed, 17 Injured

From left, Samantha Fuentes, Ashley Baez, Isabel Chequer, William Olson, Anthony Borges, and Alexander Dworet. Photo: Michael Avedon

Samantha Fuentes
Shot at age 18.

I did the thing that you’re not supposed to do in a shooting: Go towards the back of the room. I panicked. I’m a huge supporter of the Second Amendment, but the moment you say that everyone can have a gun and that everyone should be able to roam the streets with one, you are completely negating the idea that people are cruel. “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” is very true. It’s about regulating those people.

Ashley Baez
Shot at age 15.

I was one of the first ones hit — behind my upper right leg. It exploded and came out my left leg. Once I can fully walk, they’re going to do surgery to replace the fat. It’s going to take about two years for it to fully, fully heal.
At the beach, I can’t wear my leg wrap. People look at me. It’s kind of like, “This happened to me. You can’t do anything about it, but you can stare all you want.”

Isabel Chequer
Shot at age 16.

We were doing this thing called Eyewitness on our computers. It’s a program with testimony from Holocaust survivors. Steven Spielberg has something to do with it. It still kind of weirds me out that I didn’t get more badly injured or even pass away, because I was directly exposed. It just doesn’t make any sense. There was a girl who was praying in Spanish, and I thought maybe I should pray too. This is a time when you pray. So I did, and then I looked over and saw one of my classmates with her head down. Then I sort of realized that she wasn’t alive anymore. It’s weird to say that when you look at someone who’s passed, you just kind of know.

William Olson
Shot at age 14.

William Olson: When I woke up at the hospital, I remember my mom and dad being there, and not knowing how to feel.

Lisa Olson, William’s mother: When I first saw him, he wasn’t even able to speak. He was just shaking, and in pain. I didn’t realize what had happened to him — I knew it was a school shooting, but I didn’t realize they were bullet injuries until we had seen the x-rays.

He was in such shock. He was covered in bloody clothes, and not all that blood was his, it was the blood of other children. He had to lay like that for a couple of hours, until the police came to collect it for evidence.

The next day, my husband and I shut the door. We sat on the bed, and we said, “William, a very tragic thing happened at your school.” We told him, “Nick, the captain of your swim team, died, Alex died, and Alaina, and Carmen, who you take piano lessons with.” He just stared out the window. I don’t think he could comprehend what really happened. He didn’t say a word. My husband and I were hysterical, sobbing.

William: I remember how upset they were.

Lisa: We have a very hard time talking about this [now]. We don’t know how to talk about it. There are things that I want to know, but can’t bring myself to ask him. He doesn’t use the word shooting, or killing. I don’t know if other families talk about it. We go to therapy. For a long time, we didn’t say anything, because I thought it would do more damage to him. What do you say? You try to still live. I am so grateful that William got to come home. But [so many] of his classmates didn’t. It’s unfathomable.

William is back in school, and has a therapy dog with him. William is not able to tell his story. He just can’t right now. But maybe one day he can use that dog to provide comfort to someone else who’s had something terrible happen to them.

Teachers have told me that they go in the closet and cry, and then come back and finish teaching their classes.

Alexander Dworet
Shot at age 15. His brother was killed in the shooting.

A bullet skimmed my head. There was blood, but it didn’t feel like it could be real. There had been a bunch of rumors that there was going to be a test, where they were going to use paintballs. Some days, I’ll be really sad. Usually, I’m all right. The friends that weren’t there don’t really ask about it. I’m glad they don’t. Sometimes it gets me in a really bad mood when they do. I haven’t gotten involved in too much of the activism. I don’t like to draw attention to myself. But it definitely changed how I feel about gun control. I think there should be more.

Photo: Michael Avedon

Anthony Borges
Shot at age 15. Barricaded a door to a classroom to protect other students, saving as many as 20 lives. Was the last of the injured to leave the hospital.

I was in the hospital for like two months. I wasn’t bored — the pain wouldn’t let me get distracted. It was all over my body, not just where I’d been shot. Imagine that someone stabbed you with a knife and wouldn’t take it out, would just push it in.

The physical therapy is helping a lot. A lot of the exercises are like the things you do before a soccer game. Still, I can’t feel my left foot. I’ve gotten skinnier, and when I stand up, I have trouble breathing. The goal is just to be able to move my entire body normally. I can’t run, and I want to run. I’m doing homeschooling now. I’m not sure when I’ll go back to school. I don’t want to; I don’t feel safe. I don’t talk about it with anybody — I get really upset. I can’t talk about it with my friends. I did what I had to do — that’s why I don’t like being called a hero. I want people to remember what happened as a miracle, from God.

May, 18, 2018

Santa Fe High School | Santa Fe, Texas | 10 Killed, At Least 10 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Sarah Salazar
Shot at age 16 by a classmate carrying a shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver.

That first day in the hospital, I think there were three surgeries. They left in the pellets that didn’t need to be taken out. I was not conscious for a few days. Several days later, I got my jaw wired shut. I had that for four weeks or so. Then they loosened it for my shoulder replacement. That would have been the fifth surgery. And then when the wires were finally taken out, that was the last. Those days are kind of a blur, but I know I was in the hospital for over a month. Even before this happened, I wanted to be an anesthesiologist. I was back to school the first day. It was not normal, but also normal. There were metal detectors. The old dance room was now the wellness center. The shooting definitely will shape my life because of the possibility that I might not be able to lift my arm. I’ll have to do things differently if that’s the case.

Photo: Michael Avedon

Rome Schubert
Shot at age 16.

It turned into total survival mode. There were two girls sitting by the back door to the classroom, and they said, “Let’s go now.” I had no idea where he was. I had no idea that I had even been shot yet. Outside, I started running. There’s a brick wall — anywhere from seven to nine feet tall — and there is a gate that you could climb up, but there were people crowding it, so I just decided, I’m going to get over this wall. And all in one motion, I got up and over the wall. Somebody was running past me and I asked them real quick, “Whose blood is this?” And they said, “It’s yours. It’s yours. You have a bullet hole in your neck.” And I couldn’t believe it because … How am I running, how am I talking? After a few weeks, everything returned to normal. It kind of amazed me. I was back on the mound, thinking, I just pitched a game two weeks after I’d gotten shot in the head.

February 1, 2018

Sal Castro Middle School | Los Angeles | 2 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Ashrah Felix
Shot at age 12.

The girl who fired the gun [that hit my wrist] was my friend. She said she had brought something to school. I thought I heard her say a gun, but I didn’t believe myself. Before, she had brought a pocket knife.

I’ve made friends at my new school. They have no idea what happened. I didn’t want to tell them, because then they’d ask me a lot of questions that I don’t want to answer. Like the name of the person who did it, and “Did she actually want to do it?” I’m not still friends with the girl who did it. She never tried to talk to me after, and I wouldn’t want to talk to her.

Photo: Michael Avedon

Sherry Zelsdorf
Injured at age 33 when a 12-year-old student came to school with a handgun.

It was my first year teaching in Los Angeles. I handed a boy a word-search at his desk. He was the only six-foot-tall seventh-grader at the school. When I handed it to him, another student said, “It’s really quiet in here today,” and right at that instant an explosion went off. And then I felt something smack into my forehead. One student was shot in the wrist. A bullet went into the temple of the student I’d handed the word-search to. He survived. From what I hear, the bullet is still stuck around his jaw.

She [the shooter] was my student. But I was never made aware of any motive.

I came back to work on the 14th of February. The same day as the shooting in Florida.

I remember kids were afraid to sit in certain seating arrangements. So it was really stressful: How do I put the classroom back together so it doesn’t look the way it was?

April 10, 2017

North Park Elementary School | San Bernardino, California | 3 Killed (Including the Shooter), 1 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Nolan Brandy
Shot at age 9 by a man with a .357 Magnum revolver. The man’s estranged wife worked at the school

What do you remember about that morning?
Nolan Brandy: My mom took me to school. We went to the car wash.
Rachel Brandy, Nolan’s mother: It was a nice, warm, sunny day. Nolan said he wanted to stay home. I said, “Oh, it’s going to be a great day. You’ll be fine.”

Do you remember when the man walked into your classroom?
Nolan: Maybe.
Rachel: I take that as a yes. I remember I heard it on the news. The injured student was 9 years old and in fourth grade. I didn’t have any proof, but I thought it was Nolan.

Nolan, do you remember being in the ambulance?
Nolan: Yes. It was loud.

Were you with him?
Rachel: I wasn’t. While I was waiting, they said every parent whose child had been injured had already been notified. So I felt like the pressure was off. But then the officer said we have to hurry to the hospital. I thought, My son is dying. This is it.

He broke two ribs and the bullet grazed his lung, kidney, and bowel, but he did not have to have surgery. I say he’s my miracle child. Now we’re working on the head.

We came back to see the school because he did miss his friends. But he was afraid to come in. They took him a different way, where he didn’t have to pass by his old classroom. I couldn’t even walk in either way. He is back at that school now. Not every day is a great day, but I felt that going back to where it happened, he could face it better.

February 27, 2012

Chardon High School | Chardon, Ohio | 3 Killed, 3 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Nick Walczak
Shot at age 17 by a fellow classmate using a .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

I was voted Captain of Crazy at school, which is like class clown. I was really loud and outgoing. I think TJ didn’t like that. TJ was quiet, and I think that’s why he aimed the gun at me. He must have shot me three times. And then he chased me down the hall — and that was the bullet that paralyzed me.

It really bugs me when people say anything about bullying. I could see how they might think, “Oh, the class clown. He probably was a bully.” I really wasn’t. None of my friends were, especially to this kid. I knew him from childhood. I’ve never said a bad word to him. We kinda disconnected, that’s all. The last time I’d seen him was the summer before.

I was driving my car on a back road. He was walking by himself, and it was hot. And I was like, “Hey, man. You need a ride?” He said, “No. My grandma lives right down there.” I was like, “All right, well, take care, dude.”

March 25, 2011

Martinsville West Middle School | Martinsville, Indiana

Photo: Michael Avedon

Chance Jackson
Shot at age 15 by a classmate.

He said, “I heard you been talking shit.”

He and I had been friends. We boxed, wrestled. Next thing I know, he had a big problem with me. Allegedly, I was running my mouth.

I was shot once in the abdomen, and then I was shot again. It felt like I just gently went down, but according to the video, I smacked the wall and slid straight down. They had to piece my stomach and intestines back together. They had to contact doctors in Texas to figure it out. They left me open for the first 24 hours for the swelling to go down and to figure out how they were going to save my life.

I did not want to go back to school ever again. They let me do all my work at home. I would stay up all night until I fell asleep. I would get up every time I saw a branch move.

I own some firearms. Well, I own one. I owned seven at one point. I’m not scared of guns.

February 14, 2008

Northern Illinois University | DeKalb, Illinois | 6 Killed (Including the Shooter),
21 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Patrick Korellis
Shot at age 22 by a shooter carrying multiple weapons.

What got to me later was Sandy Hook. First-graders. I broke down.

That’s when I wanted to start doing something. I contacted my senator, Dick Durbin. They were trying to expand background checks for all gun sales. He said, “Patrick, we don’t have enough votes,” and “Can I use your story?Sometimes it can help.”

I met him again after Orlando, after Vegas, after Parkland. And he said, “Patrick, I can’t believe we’re still talking about this.”

I’m in a Mass Shooting Facebook group with other victims. When I joined, there were only a couple hundred. Now it’s almost 900.

April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech University | Blacksburg, Virginia | 33 Killed (Including the Gunman), 23 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Colin Goddard
Shot at age 21 by a student carrying two semi-automatic pistols.

There were 17 people in that room with me. I’m one of seven alive today.

Eventually, I was able to play sports again and return to my same physical state, which helped my mental state. However, ten years later, I’m dealing with lead poisoning. My mom forwarded me an article about lead levels in gunshot victims, saying, “You ever get tested?” I was never told to.

Sure enough, I had significantly elevated levels of lead in my blood. Thousands of people get shot in this country every year. It’s blown me away that there really is no consensus about how to treat this.

I don’t currently own any guns. Before, I was in Army ROTC. After the shooting, I’ve been to the range, been hunting. People are kind of shocked to hear that I will shoot guns, but I understand the desire. I understand the culture here in America. Shooting has also solidified in me the need for change because of how incredibly powerful these weapons are.

Fragments of bullets are still getting pulled out of my body. They are given to the police immediately as evidence. I don’t want to make this stuff into a necklace, but I carried it around for a decade. I want to see it. I want to touch it. I feel like it’s mine.

May 7, 2004

Randallstown High School | Randallstown, Maryland | 4 Injured, Thomas Most Severely

Photo: Michael Avedon

William “Tipper” Thomas
Shot at age 18 when a fellow student got into a fight with some of Thomas’s teammates.

Everyone was trying to flee for their lives. As I’m running, a young lady falls and I had to help her back to her feet. That’s when I felt a real bad burning sensation in my neck. And then another one in my shoulder blade. I remember laying on the ground, trying to figure out Why can’t I get up? Me being a three-sport athlete — playing basketball, football, running track, used to being able to do whatever I want with my body.

Playing football for Morgan State University was my childhood dream. Some people may have never even heard of it, but it was the school that my father went to. The doctors said my chances of walking again were slim to zero.

In court, his mother asked for leniency, because her son didn’t have any positive male role models, didn’t have any sports activities; he didn’t feel welcomed in the church. The judge said, “Ma’am, the things you’re saying could be true. However, your son has showed no remorse this entire proceeding. I’m sentencing him to 100 years in jail.”

January 15, 2002

Martin Luther King Jr. High School | New York

Photo: Michael Avedon

Andre Wilkins
Shot at age 16 by a fellow student.

I’d had an incident with the guy like two weeks prior. I thought it had been squashed. The guy came up. You got any problems? The whole aggression thing. I’d never had a gun pulled on me. He shot my friend first. When your adrenaline is rushing, you don’t really notice that you’ve gotten hit. Then I started to panic. I’m 16. Your mind starts to race. I never got a mustache. I never got a beard. I never went to the club.

April 20, 1999

Columbine High School | Littleton, Colorado | 15 Killed (Including the Shooters), 25 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Sean Graves
Shot at age 15 by two fellow students.

My biggest concern that day was a test I’d studied for all night. I needed to get an A or I was not gonna get my driver’s permit.

We were confused as to what they were doing. They were loading magazines into their guns and pulling gear out of duffel bags. In our eyes, innocent as they were at the time, we assumed it was a prank. It didn’t hurt until that last shot. None of the first five hit bone. No. 6 entered the side of my backpack and hit a notebook. If you flip through the pages, you can see where the bullet actually changed trajectory, where it turned around and pointed straight for my spine. I thought, This hurts like hell. Something isn’t right here. [But also,] This has gotta be a prank. Somebody just shot me with a tranquilizer dart. I kept telling people, “Pull the damn dart out of my back.”

I couldn’t go anywhere in Colorado without somebody figuring out who I was because I was tied to a wheelchair. I had a hard time dealing with that. I still do on days that I’m in pain. People will see me limping and they’ll start to piece it together. They’ll start to figure out who I am.

May 21, 1998

Thurston High School | Springfield, Oregon | 2 Killed on Campus, 25 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Jennifer Alldredge Ryker
Shot at age 17 by an expelled student who had killed his parents, then driven to school with a Glock, a Ruger rifle, and other weapons.

I tried to scream, but blood came out. My hand was spurting blood too. It looked like the scene from The Crow. Then I pretty much passed out. I woke up a couple of times. My friend Shelly had my head in her lap, and she was crying and saying, “Don’t fall asleep. Don’t die on me. Don’t give up.” I remember thinking, Oh, you’re so dramatic, Shelly. I’m fine. I just want to go to sleep. I’m cold. Later on, I woke again, and I had a Life Saver in my mouth. I spit it out because I was worried I would choke on it. A paramedic saw me spit out the Life Saver and realized I was still alive.

My boyfriend had tackled the gunman. We were both shot in our hands. We were both shot in our lungs. A couple years later, we got married, and we have two kids. We divorced, but if it wasn’t for that shooting, we wouldn’t have been married … I mean, we were just juniors in high school. And we wouldn’t have had these awesome kids. So it’s been a horrible thing but a really neat trauma-­bonding thing as well. It’s part of my life. It’s part of who I am. Everyone has something in their lives they’ve had to get over.

Photo: Michael Avedon

Betina Lynn
Shot at age 18 by an expelled student who had killed his parents, then driven to school with a Glock, a Ruger rifle, and other weapons.

I was sitting in the cafeteria at the table I always sat at. We weren’t the popular kids. I was in the orchestra, and some of them played Dungeons and Dragons, and Jen was in choir. We sort of banded together.

The moment the second bullet hit me, I tried to crawl underneath the table, but there was a bar, so I couldn’t. So I made the decision that instead I was going to purposefully watch what transpired. Because they were going to need witnesses.

December 1, 1997

Heath High School | West Paducah, Kentucky | 3 Killed, 5 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Missy Jenkins Smith
Shot at age 15 by a student who showed up to school with 3 guns.

Every morning, me and my twin sister would attend a prayer circle. After we said “Amen,” I had just enough time to walk to the middle of the lobby to pick up my backpack, but I only got halfway when I heard the first shot. And then I saw a girl I knew get shot in the head.

It felt like fainting is what it felt like. It was nothing that I would’ve said, “Oh, being shot would probably feel like this,” nothing like it at all.

He was a freshman; I was a sophomore. He was in band with me. I liked him. So I was surprised it was him.

He was always a class clown, and whenever people told him he was annoying, he was like, “I don’t care what you say.” He had a really good defense mechanism. I would start bawling.

Bullying wasn’t something that’s talked about as much as it is now.

I knew nothing about .22 handguns until I was shot with one. The bullet bounces around in your body. But it missed every major artery and organ besides my lung and my spinal cord. The only thing that was taken away from me was walking. And that didn’t mean I couldn’t have what I wanted in life.

That summer, I was sent to a camp in Alabama and I did all these things I didn’t know you could do in a wheelchair. Ride a horse, climb a tree, water-ski.

November 22, 1988

Cooper High School | Abilene, Texas

Photo: Michael Avedon

Rick Maloney
Shot at age 35 by a 16-year-old student.

We were fixing to have Thanksgiving holiday. They were watching a movie, and at the end of the class, I gave everybody their grades. You don’t yell it out; you don’t tell a kid that he’s failed. So each individual walked up and I gave them their grades, and I remember the bell rang and the TV was still on behind me and it was making that chhhh sound. So I started to turn around to turn it off, and all of a sudden I heard the biggest firecracker go off. I thought, Who is shooting a firecracker in my class? When I turned back, I could see that a student was slowly walking out of the room, and I heard some girl scream. I thought, That wasn’t a firecracker.

All of a sudden, I started thinking, Oh, no, I don’t want to go like this. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want the students to see what was happening.

I lost seven teeth and they were all over my mouth, and I didn’t know where the bullet was. It shattered my tongue, it went through the bottom of my mouth, it lodged over in my neck.

The police found him. He was out at the lake, fishing. Even to this day, I do not know why he shot me. He had failed my class, but then he had failed three other classes. It’s been 30 years, and I still don’t know. Never told me.

At the trial, defense attorneys tried to make me look like crap. I was a sorry teacher, and all this stuff. He got 14 years for attempted murder.

Things haven’t quite been the same since. There’s stuff I’m not proud of. I’m on my third marriage. You get in this business because you like kids, you want to help them. Then all of a sudden you have someone that wants to kill you?

I went back and taught ten more years. Same classroom. Teachers were scared to death: I’m not going to go back to that school. I felt like I had to be the example.

February 12, 1976

Murray-Wright High School | Detroit | 5 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Russell Allen Johnson
Shot at age 15 with a .38 by another teenager.

Before Valentine’s Day, school was buzzing. We had intruders coming from another school. Some folks said it was about a girl.

He shot five of us. I was hit in the calf. It almost knocks your leg out from under you. My mother was hysterical, girlfriends were hysterical. Then we went to the hospital to extract the bullet. More excitement and more popularity. It was a different time. Now you’ve experienced a gunshot wound!

I’m the only one left of those five guys. They stayed in the same vein. I was hanging out in school, under the influence of whatever we were smoking, when this Army recruiter says, “Son, what are you going to do with your life?” By no means am I promoting the Army, but I woke up and I was in Germany as a soldier. That’s when I found out that I was not a man, I was just a boy. I believe in guns, I do. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.

November 20, 1970

Harlan High School | Chicago

Photo: Michael Avedon

Kenneth House
Shot at age 15 by another teenager.

It was gang related. Chicago was one of those places where the gangs were generational. My dad even belonged to a gang: the Warlords. The doctor who worked on me was an old guy. He was around during the ’20s with Al Capone, so he was very familiar with removing slugs out of people — and thank God, because he saved my life.

One of the things about being shot is I do not like weapons. I’ve been around weapons all my life. I’m a Vietnam vet. I live in a right-to-carry state, Georgia. I have several weapons, but I don’t carry them. Because once that bullet leaves that chamber, it’s not coming back. We all have a right to carry a weapon. But we have gotten to a point where we’re training children to shoot. What are you preparing for, some big race war? If it happens, you’re going to have people dead in the street. Nobody’s going to be able to stop it.

October 5, 1966

Grand Rapids High School | Grand Rapids, Minnesota | 1 Killed, 1 Injured

Photo: Michael Avedon

Kevin Roth
Shot at age 14 by a fellow student with a .22-caliber rifle.

Even at the time, I was thinking, I’m guilty of being a part of this shooting. The day before, David said that he was going to kill us. Of course, we didn’t believe him.

When they took me out of the ambulance, my mother was there, and I sat up and said, “Mom, I’m going to be all right.” They pushed me right back down because they had no idea where the bullet was. Any type of movement could have lodged it.

They started undressing me, and, being a 14-year-old boy, They ain’t taking my clothes off! Back then, X-ray machines were huge, and it came right down on top of me, which made me really claustrophobic. That’s when I thought I was going to die. The bullet had stayed intact very close to my heart. It went through my liver and lung. Forrest Wylie was in the hospital too. He was a school administrator, a good father, somebody that saved lives by trying to get the gun away from David. He wasn’t supposed to die, the doctors told me. I was, being where the bullet was. On my sixth day in the hospital, a nurse came running into my room: “Mr. Wylie just died.” Of course, now I really feel shitty. No psychiatrist, no type of help from anybody, not even a priest.

When I got out, I felt the community didn’t like me. I’m the boy who pushed David over the edge. When you hang with a dog, you’re going to get fleas. The seniors teased him, and since I hung out with those guys, I was part of it. All David wanted was to be accepted. He would tell people outlandish stories: I belong to the Mafia …

His dad showed him how to load the gun the night before, more than likely not even knowing what David was going to do. His dad was an alcoholic who physically abused him. There was no self-worth.

And he’s had a tough life. Jail, gets out of jail, he’s nobody. He’d go from janitor job to janitor job, and people would find out who he is and he’d just skedaddle. As far as I know, he’s still alive. But I’d prefer not to say where he’s living. I want him to be left alone, because whatever he’s endured — maybe I’ve handled it better than he could.

March 4, 1958

Manual Training High School | Brooklyn

Photo: Michael Avedon

Joe Pepitone
Shot at age 17.

It was my senior year of high school. I had 13 Major League Baseball clubs after me. A group of kids were talking, and one jumped out and put a gun in my stomach. I said, “This gun’s loaded.” He said, “Yeah.” He cocked it. It went right off.

I didn’t feel it. It went under my heart, came out my back, and shattered the blackboard. He ran out of class. I could see a hole in my sweater with powder stains. I felt a pinch on my back. I put my thumb back there, and when I pulled it out, I had blood all around my thumb. I must have gone into shock, because I fell to my knees. And it’s funny, at first I said, “Oh, there goes my career.”

When I woke up, the doctor said, “A fraction of an inch either way, you would have been dead.”

Right after that, a lot of the baseball teams dropped out; they thought it was all over. And the next thing I know, my father died, about three days after I got shot. He was 39, so that was a trauma in itself.

I didn’t finish high school. I went back, my heart started beating fast, I was a wreck. I just ran out of the classroom.

But I finally got well. I started playing ball a little bit. Three teams stuck with me, and I went to the Yankees. But the flashbacks were terrible. I’d be driving and I could see the guy’s face. I’m not seeing the road, I’m just seeing this in Technicolor. The kid got off because I didn’t press charges. I don’t want to mention his name. I’m not mad at him. He was an angry, angry kid. To this day, I don’t like talking about it, because it brings back really bad memories. As I say, I was 17 years old.

June 25, 1946

Brooklyn High School For Automotive Trades | Brooklyn

Photo: Michael Avedon

Victor Simeone
Shot at age 15.

I think I was the first one in New York to ever get shot for 35 cents. I was in the lunchroom. There were four or five of them, and one approached me. Says, “How much money ya got in there?” And I says, “Thirty-five cents. Twenty-five for lunch and ten for the subway.” He took the quarter. And that’s when he went boom. I’ll never forget his face. Good mustache.

I think about it still. Even in Korea I did, you know. It’s hard to explain.

Want more stories like this one? Subscribe now to support our journalism and get unlimited access to our coverage. If you prefer to read in print, you can also find this article in the October 29, 2018, issue of New York Magazine.

School-Shooting Survivors Bare Their Scars and Bear Witness