Santa Fe school shooting survivors sensitive to July Fourth fireworks

- What is the Fourth of July without fireworks?  It’s something that’s necessary for some survivors of the Santa Fe school shooting.  So some are choosing to skip the loud noises this year because they’re just not ready to hear ear-piercing fireworks so soon after the deadly school shooting less than two months ago.    

“I’ve noticed I've had like nightmares or flashbacks or just like anxiety throughout the day,” explains 18-year-old Kaitlyn Richards who just graduated from Santa Fe High School.  She realizes there can be many triggers of fear and anxiety for those now suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after surviving that tragic school shooting at Santa Fe High.

"I just think it’s important for everybody to know what the signs of PTSD can be,” says Richards, who was sent running for her life as eight students and two teachers were shot to death inside her school.

The first time she heard fireworks after that day brought back vivid memories of the school shooting.

"Just because I heard very similar sounds May 18th and it’s still very hard to process that and any sound that sounds similar to that is triggering."  So she’s choosing to skip the Fourth of July fireworks this year because of the loud sounds.

"I just feel very anxious.  It’s like a weight on your chest," Richards says. "It does make you feel fear for a split second. You have to remind yourself that’s not what that is.” 

Richards is one of the co-founders of the non-profit Hearts United for Kindness. The girls came up with the group after the school shooting to help spread love and not violence.

“It’s good for victims of trauma to talk about it,” explains Sharon Bayus, a counselor with the Santa Fe Resiliency Center. Bayus says shooting survivors who want to attend a fireworks show should perhaps try wearing noise canceling earphones.  “Watching fireworks with headphones on so you can see the beauty without the noise is a wonderful idea."

Bayus says in the short-term it’s perfectly fine to avoid things that trigger bad feelings, but she says ultimately victims of trauma need to learn to work through it.  So they don’t suffer the symptoms long-term.  She says you may need professional help doing that.

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