Heath High Shooting Survivor: Effects of Shooting Never Go Away

The scale of the Newtown elementary school shooting is unprecedented, but Hollan Holm understands what the people in that Connecticut town are enduring.

Holm was wounded in December 1997 when a student — Michael Carneal, then 14 — opened fire in Heath High School in West Paducah, killing three. 

He notes that Friday’s shooting — which killed 27, including 20 elementary school kids and the shooter — is different. But, speaking from his experience, Holm said Newtown will be a changed community, and the families of the survivors will never be able to put these events totally behind them.

“I think families after several years, the wounds will tend to heal enough to where they will be able to go about life and not have to deal with the imagery and fear and the emotions that they’re dealing with right now from the shooting,” Holm said.

“To some extent, it never goes away. They’ll be reminded of this every time there’s another incident like this for the rest of their lives. They’ll be reminded of this every time another Dec. 14 rolls around.”

Shock, obviously, affects the families of victims, survivors and simply people in close proximity, said Holm, who now lives in Louisville. Holm said he also was confronted with his own mortality after the shooting — a burden for someone just 14.

“It brings reality down on you really hard,” he said, adding later while noting the young age of the Sandy Hook Elementary students who survived the shooting: “I can’t imagine it.”

Holm, who now lives in Louisville, said he’s not entirely surprised that lawmakers haven’t tried to address the issues that surround school shootings.

He recognizes that the recent political climate hasn’t been conducive to dealing with such issues. Still, it’s been 15 years since the Heath shooting. If anything, laws Holm said may have an affect — such as the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 — have regressed.

But Holm said more than firearms should be considered when attempting to address school shootings.

“You have to consider: One, there needs to be greater access for mental health care resources for people,” Holm said. ”People need to be more informed to look for warning signs for people who may be mentally ill.

“You also would need to consider that, it’s hard to say that just limiting access to firearms is a solution, but at the same time you do have to weigh: are there some reasonable solutions that need to be in place.”

Joseph Lord

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.

@joseph_Lord

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