CLEVELAND — Those who survived the shooting rampage on the campus of Case Western Reserve University nearly nine years ago are reliving the terror.
Monday’s shooting at Chardon High School brought back the feeling of fear and powerlessness for three women who were working in their offices that day.
Professor Susan Helper, Amanda Nicol and Molly Schnoke shared their stories with Fox 8 News Reporter Maria Scali.
They also wanted to share their healing experience with the students and a staff of Chardon High School.
Professor Helper remembers May 9, 2003 as being a beautiful spring day.
Then that all changed when Biswanath Halder went on a shooting spree in the Weatherhead School of Management.
All remember the initial chaos and confusion over whether shots were fired.
“Next thing I knew, someone that worked upstairs ran in my office (and said), ‘You need to run, there’s a man in the building with a gun,’ ” Nicol recalled.
Schnoke remembers people not knowing what to do.
“Should we run out of the building? Should we try and leave, or should we stay? And I said we absolutely need to hide,” Schnoke recalled.
Professor Helper came face to face with the shooter.
“He had a gun, and he was raising it. Then luckily, I was able to get the door shut just in time,” she said.
But it was not before she was grazed by a bullet.
“The bullet hit, and luckily hit a bone, and it bounced,” Helper explained. “So, I had a big bruise and some physical pain for a few weeks,” she recalled.
Professor Helper remained alone in her office for four hours before being rescued by police.
The terrifying time was longer for the others.
Nicol spent eight hours in a closet with four other women.
Schnoke and five colleagues hid under desks, barricaded in their office.
“You’re absolutely terrified. The adrenaline rush you taste, you feel the adrenaline and your heart races, pounding out of your chest, and you are trying to be as quiet and as emotionless as possible,” Schnoke described.
They had to be quiet, fearful that the gunman might hear them.
“As I sat in the closet for the first two hours, all I heard was gunshots. For the first half hour, the gunshots were being sprayed across the wall of the closet that I was in,” Nicol remembered.
The women say not knowing what might happen was their greatest fear, and that made them feel powerless.
Monday’s shooting at Chardon High School brought back those same feelings.
“Anytime something like this happens, Molly, Susan and I are all beginning a cycle that we need to restart our healing. It reminds us of what happened at Case,” said Nicol.
Healing, they say, is a process that takes time and is individual.
“Just as everybody grieves in their own way, everybody heals from this type of thing in their own way. There is no expected way they should feel,” Schnoke said.
Nate Mueller, 16, saw friends being shot and was grazed in the ear by a bullet.
Professor Helper says the physical scar can heal rather quickly, but the emotional scar takes much longer.
“Hopefully, the people around him and around the other kids will let people heal in their own way. Some people may want to go back to school work really quickly, because it is an escape. Some people may not want to talk right away,” Helper said.
Nicol, who prayed for eight hours the day of the Case shooting, says your faith can be stronger than your fear or anything that happens to you.
“There is hope for healing for them. I think that they need to understand that for one morning on Monday they were absolutely powerless to the events that were happening. They are no longer powerless, and they will come to understand that,” Nicol said. “And it is not going to happen for some of these people in Chardon tomorrow. And it is not going to happen next week. And it is not going to happen next month. And that is okay. It’s going to happen on their terms.”