Columbine Survivor Paula Reed Still Haunted, Still Teaching

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Even after 19 years, Columbine High School teacher Paula Reed still wrestles with the memory of the April 20 massacre. News of the Columbine shooting rocked the nation. And while Reed still educates young minds in the same classroom she was assigned to nearly two decades ago, the teacher copes with the effects of the trauma daily.

Reed told NPR that the last time she watched the news was on the night of the horrifying event. But in this digital era and the global use of social media, turning off the television has done little to protect her from the effects of the tragedies that have followed. Reed said that each mass shooting has affected her in different ways, but the Sandy Hook Elementary and the Las Vegas massacres were particularly difficult to handle.

The 32-year veteran educator admitted that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., left her “completely freakin’ unhinged,” she told NPR. The horrifying incident where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz took the lives of 17 people while injuring several others had alarming parallels to what happened at Columbine.

With some 2,500 schools across the country participating in protests to call for tighter gun control laws on Friday, Reed has been asked by the media if arming teachers and staff is a viable solution to ending the threat of campus violence.

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In a Feb. 25 blog post entitled “To Arms?” the petite 55-year-old teacher considered the implications of arming teachers in schools and how she might react if one of her students “pulled out a gun.” Reed admits that she doesn’t have the answers, but she believes that as a country, we should pass informed legislation. And that work should start now.

“Don’t ask me whether I love my students enough to defend them with a gun or too much to shoot one of them,” Reed wrote. “Ask this country whether we love all of our children enough to get serious about objectively gathering the data we need to make good policy and then making good policy.”


As she ponders the future, Reed reflects on the amount of time it will take for victims of school shootings to heal. For her, the process has been painfully slow, complicated, and incremental. Reed told CNN that life for the Parkland survivors will get better over time, but they will have to accept that they are no longer the same people they were before the tragedy.

“It takes a lot of time and the phases of healing don’t always feel like healing,” Reed told CNN. “It feels longer than it is but it is definitely a long process. That new normal doesn’t happen for quite a while.”

Reed told NPR that the month of April will continue to be a difficult one. With recent shootings like Parkland as a reminder of how little things have changed, Reed insists that the time is now to ensure the safety of America’s educational institutions.