4th Bi-Annual EMS CEU Summit in Eugene, Oregon

Last weekend, I spoke at the 2017 EMS CEU Summit in Eugene, Oregon.   My presentation was followed by Nolan’s and then Kayla’s.  Nolan is a paramedic who responded to the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015.  Nolan spoke about his experience the shooting and how he took care of himself in the days, weeks, and months that followed. He explained to fellow medics what they can expect when they receive a call to respond to an active shooter event. Kayla is a human trafficking survivor.  She spoke about how she was recruited and how she escaped. She explained the human and sex trafficking business, how it works, and what to look for.  These were both raw and powerful presentations by amazing individuals.

After attending the morning session of the Summit, I explored Eugene.  Attending and presenting at these conferences is often emotionally draining.  Reliving the day of the shooting, telling my recovery story, listening to other speakers, and connecting with attendees.  It’s exhausting and fulfilling at the same time.  In the afternoon, I went to Skinner’s Butte lookout to take in new scenes, then enjoyed a flight of beers at Steelhead in the 5th Street marketplace.  A beautiful view and post-conference beer was the perfect way to end an awesome day. 

Here are a few pictures of me speaking and one picture from the top of Skinner’s Butte lookout.


Letter from Columbine

A friend sent me the letter below with the message, "The inflight magazine was for you." 

Heather was one of the first donors to my GoFundMe campaign. Thank you Heather. Thank you for your donation, and thank you for the letter. #lettersofpeace

The Mission of the VT’s Office of Recovery and Support

For the past six months, I have been told by Virginia Tech that the mission of the Office of Recovery and Support is to provide support for the families of those who lost loved ones, and the physically injured individuals, but that the mission of the Office of Recovery and Support does not include physically uninjured individuals, which is why they cannot help me.

Virginia Tech has expressed this position publically in recent Roanoke Times and Collegiate Times articles.

However, a 2008 memo from President Steger clearly rebuts some of their statements about the intended recipients. (Memo can be found here: http://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2008/05/2008-383.html, dated May 29, 2008.)

Here is an excerpt from the memo:

“The mission of the Office of Recovery and Support is unchanged: To provide support — specifically including improved two-way communication and facilitation of support services — for the families of those killed, the injured and their families, and others directly affected by the killings at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Further, the Office of Recovery and Support is the central campus location to manage broader recovery efforts of the university community, such as commemoration activities.”

I interpret “others directly affected” as individuals who were chained in with the shooter, were shot at but the shooter missed, chose to jump out windows to save their lives, or build barricades to protect themselves. “Others directly affected” is the physically uninjured individuals -the population of people that I launched my campaign to help.

I am confused how Virginia Tech is interpreting “others directly affected.”  It seems straightforward to me.

From Overwhelmed with Love to Overwhelmed with Sadness

What do I do when I get overwhelmed? I write.

Yesterday, I was overwhelmed with love.  I was so happy with how my GoFundMe campaign was going, the donations it was receiving, and the number of people who were sending me personal messages wanting to help (offering discounted hotel rooms, counseling, and even their homes for us to reunite).

Today, I was overwhelmed with sadness.  I read a few comments on articles regarding my campaign from individuals who have different opinions than me.  I had to stop reading.  The pain was too much to bear.  I should have prepared myself better for this. If their goal was to hurt my feelings, they sure were successful.

I get it. Folks have different opinions than me. And that’s OK. In my opinion, they were misinformed and made inaccurate assumptions about my past. But why can’t we agree to disagree in a polite manner? It is necessary to publicly shame me and embarrass me?

Maybe I need thicker skin? Maybe I’m too sensitive? But if I put up walls to protect myself from the sadness, I wouldn’t feel all the love that I felt in the beginning of this campaign.

I’ve thought about quitting multiple times today.  I wish I was strong enough that these comments didn’t bother me. Sorry, folks, I’m not. But maybe that’s what being brave is all about? For me and this campaign, maybe brave is putting my opinion and feelings out there for the public to comment on – whatever their criticisms might be.  Because by being vulnerable, I can help others heal and they can help me.