“Sometimes I can’t get out of bed”
Abigail Zwerner, a Virginia teacher who was seriously injured when police said a 6-year-old student deliberately shot her during class, says her recovery remains debilitating.
Zwerner, speaking publicly on air for the first time on Tuesday’s TODAY show, said she is facing “hurdles and challenges” following multiple surgeries after she was shot through her left arm and upper chest. Her occupational therapy sessions also drained her physically and mentally, she told TODAY co-host Savannah Guthrie.
“Some days are not so good days when I can’t get out of bed. Some days are better than others when I can get out of bed and come to a meeting,” Zwerner, 25, said. with her left arm bandaged from a recent fourth operation to help a bone that had been severely damaged.
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The physical scars are healing, she said, including a gash on the side of her body where doctors inserted a chest tube after her lung collapsed.
“But, you know, after going through what I’ve been through, I try to stay positive,” said Zwerner, a first grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. “You know, try to take a positive look at what happened and where my future is headed.”
Zwerner was praised for her handling of the shooting as she escorted about 20 students to safety. She spent almost two weeks in the hospital.
In an interview with NBC News on Monday, she said that her left hand is still not fully functional, making simple tasks like clenching a fist, opening a water bottle and getting dressed extremely difficult. She said her doctors are still not sure if she will be able to use her arm like she used to.
“Physiotherapy exhausts not only physically, but also mentally. I have to move them every hour, for an hour,” she said of her fingers, “just by manipulating them to make blood flow and get this. movement back to the hand.
The January 6 shooting raised concerns about potential security breaches at kindergartens and fifth grade schools, as well as in the school district, which has seen other local school shooting incidents in the past 18 months.
The law firm representing Zwerner plans to file a lawsuit in the case in two weeks.
“I can tell you that there were failures on several levels in this case, and there were adults in leadership positions who could have prevented this tragedy, but did not,” said lawyer Diane Toscano.
Toscano said the boy who shot Zwerner had behavioral problems and an uncomfortable relationship with school staff and other students.
According to a notice of intent to sue given to the Newport News School Board on January 24, the boy was suspended for one day for hacking into Zwerner’s mobile phone and returned the next day with a 9mm Taurus pistol, with which he shot his teacher. in class while she sat at the reading table.
Toscano said three teachers approached the school about the boy’s behavior and suspicions that he had a gun on campus. A source close to the incident told NBC News that Zwerner sent a text message to a loved one before she was shot, saying the boy was armed and that school authorities were inactive.
After the shooting, the 6-year-old boy’s family said in a statement that the guns were “protected” in the home and that they “always maintained responsible gun ownership and kept firearms out of the reach of children.” “
The family also said the boy had an acute disability and received “the treatment he needed” after the shooting as part of a court-ordered temporary detention in a medical facility.
Newport News Police conducted interviews with school staff and students before turning the case over to the Newport News Commonwealth Attorney for possible criminal charges in February.
Police said the child’s mother legally purchased the weapon he was using, but did not elaborate on how he obtained it or whether it was securely fastened, as the family claims.
Local Attorney Howard Gwynn told NBC News this month that while the 6-year-old could theoretically face criminal charges under Virginia law, he would not press charges against the student.
“Our goal is not just to get things done as quickly as possible,” Gwynn said when asked about the timing of charges and who could be charged. prove beyond reasonable doubt the commission of a crime.
James Ellenson, the boy’s family’s attorney, emailed Monday that they “welcome the prosecutor’s decision and continue to pray for Ms. Zwerner’s full recovery.”
The shooting also led to other changes at Newport News and Richneck schools, where metal detectors were installed.
School board members voted to fire school superintendent George Parker III “for no reason” in less than three weeks. Richneck’s principal was reassigned to another position within the school district, and Richneck’s deputy principal resigned.
Zwerner’s attorney dismissed Parker’s initial comments to parents during a virtual town hall that at least one school administrator had been alerted to the possible presence of weapons on campus, and a subsequent search of the 6-year-old’s backpack turned up no weapons. He did not provide any details about who conducted the search, why no weapons were found, or whether the child’s clothes were searched.
A spokeswoman for Newport News Public Schools did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but said earlier that the school district could not comment on the allegations leveled against school officials amid an ongoing internal investigation and could not share any educational information. student, citing a criminal investigation.
While gun violence in U.S. schools has risen and school shootings have reached their highest level in two decades during the 2020-2021 school year, according to a June 2022 federal report, it is still rare for a young child to be shooter.
“This is the 17th shooting by someone under the age of 10 at a school,” David Readman, founder of the K-12 School Shooting Database, which has been tracking U.S. school shootings since 1970, told NBC News. filming in January. “A 6-year-old rarely pulls the trigger.”
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com.
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