Columbine survivor on taking her kids to school: ‘I just pray I get to pick them up’

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It's something Kacey Johnson thinks about every day -- the deadly shooting at Columbine High School.

She was one of 21 people injured when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire inside the suburban Denver school back on April 20, 1999. 12 students and a teacher were killed. The shooters then killed themselves.

Johnson, who was 17 at the time, went on to become a nurse, get married, and have four children. She also helps others who have survived tragic events and is an advocate for organ and tissue donation.

A change in routine

On the day the shooting happened, Johnson broke her usual routine.

"For me, it was the one day of the whole school year that I actually stayed at the school for lunch," she told Fox 8's Kristi Capel during an interview Thursday on Fox 8 News in the Morning.

"Usually I had driven home to my parents' house where my mom had lunch ready for me," she said. "But that day I made my way to the library and was reading a magazine when just a few minutes later the teacher came running in telling us there was a boy outside with a gun. It all happened so fast."

Playing dead

Johnson said just before she was shot, she saw one of the shooters about five feet behind her point a gun at a boy who was hiding behind her.

"He was not so fortunate to survive and then it was my turn," she said. "He shot me, started yelling at me, and I really needed him to think he could move on from me, so I quit breathing and played dead until he went on his way."

'Blanket of peace'

She believes an angel was looking out for her.

"I feel like I felt a hand on my back," Johnson explained. "And I turned around actually to look 'who could possibly be hiding along with me?'"

There was no one there.

"Right when I felt the hand, there was just a blanket of peace that came across me knowing i was going to be shot," she said. "I really think it saved my life."

'I just pray I get to pick them up'

Now that Johnson is a mother, she has to send her own children to school. She said that is very hard for her.

"Every day I drop them off, I just pray I get to pick them up," she said.

"That sounds heavy, but it's my reality thinking that I'm putting them in the situation that I was in that was so horrible."

But she is careful not to project her fears on them.

"I want to let them grow up living a normal and joyful childhood."

'I'm okay'

“I would love to sit down and talk with them,” she replied when Kristi Capel asked her is she would sit down with the parents of the shooters. “Not in an angry way. Just to have a conversation."

She said being a parent has given her a different perspective.

"Just learning their journey and how things happened," she said. "I can’t imagine being them. I wouldn’t want to be in their situation at all. Maybe just to offer grace to them and say ‘I’m okay.’”

Organ and tissue donation 'saved my life'

Johnson came to Cleveland to be the keynote speaker of Lifebanc's 10th annual Legacy of Life luncheon.

She received a donated bone that was used so she could keep the arm where she was shot.

"The doctor couldn't have saved my arm without the donation," she said. "I am a big advocate for tissue donation."

"The young donor whose bone I was given to save my arm, her family gave a great gift."

"It didn't medically save my life," Johnson said. "But it 'saved my life.'"

To learn more about organ and tissue donation, click here.