"It’s going to take time," Regina Rohde told Matt Lauer on TODAY. "People are living minute to minute, not being able to cope with anything. Eventually it becomes hour by hour, week by week. It takes a lot of time."
Rohde knows. Eight years ago, she was a freshman at Columbine High School in Colorado when two classmates, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, came in armed to the teeth and bent on murder.
She was in the cafeteria, the epicenter of the attack, but was one of the lucky ones who managed to escape the building even before the first calls went out to police. Twelve students died in that assault.
It took a long time, she said, to stop wondering whether every person she saw was going to attack her. But she finally got to the stage where "you can go about your daily life not constantly looking around you. It’s taken years to get to that point. [But] you never get back to that complete sense of security."
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And now, on Monday morning, it was happening again. Rohde wasn’t in the direct line of fire, but she knew that a gunman was on the prowl, and she found herself experiencing the same emotions as she had in 1999.
"It was a lot of the same reactions. ‘What’s going on? Who’s hurt? Where do we go?’ — the same kind of questions that we asked ourselves" at Columbine, she said.
Oddly, she didn’t immediately connect the two experiences. "For some reason, I didn’t really go back to that day eight years ago until quite a bit later," she said.
Even now, she said, "I don’t think it’s really hit a lot of people, yet, myself included. I haven’t really come to understand yet what truly was going on."
She does know what comes next, beginning with simply absorbing the enormity of what’s happened. At Columbine, she said, the media coverage sometimes made that difficult. Talking to TODAY, she said, was a difficult decision.
She understood that the media have to tell the story, but, she said, "We can’t have the media always there every single moment."
Every time 20 or 30 students gathered, cameras were there recording it, she said. "We didn’t feel we had the time and space we needed to be a community."
That’s what she and her fellow Hokies will need, she said – "our space."
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