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Whitney Austin: Louisville woman reflects on Fifth Third shooting 3 years after being shot 12 times

Three years ago, on Sept. 6, Louisvillian Whitney Austin was shot 12 times while going to work at the Fifth Third Center in Cincinnati.
Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 4:19 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2021 at 5:12 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Three years ago, on Sept. 6, Louisvillian Whitney Austin was shot 12 times while going to work at the Fifth Third Center in Cincinnati.

Since then, her life has dramatically changed.

Austin just celebrated her 40th birthday in May.

”I don’t think it’s the usual 40 because of what I’ve gone through,” Austin said. “So it’s more like, ‘OMG, I get to be 40.’ And if everybody could have that perspective ... ”

Three years ago, Austin was on her cellphone while walking into the Fifth Third Center in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. She was oblivious to the people trying to warn her to not go into the building, where a gunman would shoot her 12 times. She said she pretended to be dead in the revolving door.

“Everything is seen through a lens of gratitude ... you know everything,” Austin said. “Moments I get with my kids, I just sit back sometimes and think ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I am alive and get to see it.’”

Three other people weren’t so lucky. Austin has had five surgeries, and still has no feeling in her left hand and limited use of her right.

”I just can’t rotate it so it makes for an awkward wave,” Austin said.

What keeps her mentally strong, she said, is her mission to save the lives of others from gun violence. Shortly after the shooting, she quit her job and started Whitney Strong. She said she’s working to make a difference in gun violence.

”I’m a banker,” Austin said. “The only way I will ever say ‘I made a difference’ is if we can see the number of those injured and killed with gun violence is reversed.”

She’s working on pushing through legislation in Kentucky to separate someone from a firearm when in a crisis. Whitney Strong has distributed 12,000 gun locks. Despite that, she said she isn’t quite ready for post-pandemic life.

”I like being in my home,” Austin said. “It feels like a safe space, not only from COVID, but also from gun violence. So as we have started to open back up and re-enter the world, I’ve had to face ‘Oh, I am going back out into the world and there’s gun violence out there.’”

Austin said a therapist helps her with that, and moving forward.

”I can change the future, and I’ve been given this gift of life so that’s what I’m going to do,” she said.

The 29-year-old shooter was shot and killed by responding officers.

Austin said she has never watched the entire surveillance video from that day, and has no plans to do so.

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