‘It’s been gut-wrenching for almost 25 years,’ Heath High School shooting survivor gives perspective on Uvalde

Kentucky knows all too well the tragedy that the small community of Uvalde, Texas is going through.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 11:29 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky knows all too well the tragedy that the small community of Uvalde, Texas is going through.

There have been three high-profile school shootings in the state, including one inside Heath High School in Western Kentucky.

In 1997, 14-year-old Michael Carneal, a student, opened fire on a prayer group at the school. He’s up for parole later this year.

Brittney Thomas survived that shooting. She said scenes like what happened this week should not still be happening 25 years later.

“It’s gut-wrenching, it’s gut-wrenching every time it’s been gut-wrenching for almost 25 years,” said Thomas.

The scenes in Texas she has witnessed over the last 24 hours instantly transport her back to her 15-year-old self.

“Things like this were not commonplace we didn’t have those triggers in the back of our mind to assume that a shooting could happen at school,” said Thomas.

Thomas lost her best friend that morning as well as two other classmates when Carneal opened fire on their prayer group.

In the 25 years since Thomas is angered that it’s still happening: students dying in a place they should feel safe.

“The shootings are not inevitable, we can’t prevent every shooting, but we can do a lot more than what we’ve done because we’ve done nothing.”

As a survivor, she says she is frustrated that as a state and a country more hasn’t been done to curb gun violence and she’s watched it divide rather than unite.

“This is an issue at multiple levels, it’s not just a gun issue, it’s not just a mental health issue. It is an issue at every level and if we only address it at one level we fail to address it at all.”

Thomas is also passionate about caring for survivors.

“As a survivor, my heart goes out to them because I know what the next days, weeks and months, and years will be like,” said Thomas. “I want survivors to know going forward that they are not alone.”

While she hopes this school shooting could be the one to finally bring about change, she knows firsthand that those left behind are the ones who need the attention now.

“And I think we have to start addressing an issue that we failed to for the last 25 years which is how to help people survive from these events.”

In recent years, Thomas has met a number of victims through the Rebels Project, an online support group. Students who survived the Columbine school shooting created it.

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