Although some in the Heath community have been speaking out about their experiences for years, the dedication of a new memorial on December 1, 2017, the twentieth anniversary of the shooting, marked the first occasion that many Heath survivors felt comfortable speaking publicly, or even to each other, about the trauma they experienced. This new openness was likely facilitated by the passage of time, but developments in medical and public constructions of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have also given Heath survivors a new vocabulary to name and communicate their feelings.
The shooting at nearby Marshall County High School less than two months after the memorial dedication, followed quickly by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that launched a national student movement, brought even more Heath voices forward. Heath survivors have shared support for other survivors, especially at Marshall, validating emotions and offering coping strategies. Many have also vented their own anger and sadness, and some have suggested remedies for the pattern of violence that has emerged in the two decades following what had initially seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime atrocity.
Essentially, the time that has passed, changes in public discourse, and the events of the last year have encouraged many previously reticent Heath survivors to speak publicly about their experiences and offer their unique perspectives on issues that have plagued the nation for over twenty years.
They are ready to speak and we are ready to listen.