Marysville school shooting survivor shares raw recount
MEAGHAN Epstein was a sophomore at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Washington when her whole life changed in a matter of minutes.
A 15-year-old freshman student, Jaylen Fryberg, shot and killed four students before turning the gun on himself on October 24 2014.
The horror took place almost three years ago, and Meaghan, a survivor of the shooting, has shared a raw recount of the nightmare on Reddit.
"The morning of the shooting was like any other. Wake up 10 minutes before school, my brother yelling up the stairwell telling me to get my a** in the car or he'd leave me," she remembered.
"We lived about a mile (1.6kms) from the school, so the ride was fairly short. We were probably listening to some sh***y rap song as we zig-zagged across speed bumps and screeched into the parking lot a couple of minutes before class."
Meaghan, now 17, rushed to her first period but still was late. It wasn't unusual for her.
She said her school was laid back, didn't have strict rules and everybody seemed to get on.
"I don't remember the morning being much different from any other, class was the same as always. I trudged onto second period, some sort of computer class. That class wasn't interesting so I never paid much attention. Then third period, health class with one of my favourite teachers. Again, a normal day," she said.
After third period, Meaghan had recess in a small room and spoke to her boyfriend on the phone, unaware of the horror that would unfold just 20 minutes later.
"If I remember correctly around 10.20am the fire alarm went off. Everyone evacuated the building as expected. I remember laughing with one of my brother's friends, joking about how it was probably one of the seniors pulling a prank. Then I heard a bang. It sounded pretty far off, so I didn't think about it. Then I heard more ... that was when fear finally set in," she said.
"It all happened within a matter of minutes. At 10.24am the first shot happened. I remember running like my life depended on it. I was aiming for the parking lot. A lot of my brother's friends were heading to their cars to leave, I so badly wanted to go with them. I wanted to go to safety. I wanted to go home," Meaghan wrote.
As she attempted to sprint towards the carpark a teacher grabbed her and pulled her towards a classroom. She said she begged him to let her go with her brother's friends but was refused.
"I never made it to the parking lot. My limbs were heavy with the thought that someone I know might be dead. My heart hurt from beating so hard. I think I cried. I don't know. I just know that I was afraid. I still feel that fear today."
She was shoved under a desk in a room where "the stench of fear was so tangible" and in that moment she felt as if her life was going in slow motion.
"I scanned the room, kids were huddled in corners, shoved under desks. The air was so thick I thought I was choking," she said.
Meaghan was taking refuge with about 50 other students in a classroom that could only fit 25.
Her classmates were in hysterics - a crying freshman was convinced her best friend was dead.
"I think that's when it finally sunk in," Meaghan said.
As she cowered under the table, her mobile phone was being flooded with texts from people asking if she was hurt.
She hid under the desk for more than two hours and listened to the news through hushed, fearful voices.
"The anxiety, the fear, that's all I could feel," she said.
The police finally came to rescue the students in the classroom.
"They came in, guns raised and flipped on the lights. I remember standing up and covering my eyes only to be told to hold my hands high in the air," she said.
"I trembled as a policeman pointed his gun near me, my heart couldn't beat any faster in that moment. We were told to grab our cell phones only and to exit the room in an orderly, single filed line. We ran out of the room, flanked by policeman."
Meaghan said as she had her first breath of fresh air she was only filled with sorrow and agony.
She was put on a school bus, which took students to a nearby church.
She said the ride was a blur and when they arrived they had to wait out the front for panicked parents.
"I'm not religious, but I do remember walking through that church and just hoping that someone would rid my body of the crippling anxiety I felt," she remembered.
"It's still there, it never went away. I hugged some of my teachers and cried with them, holding hands with people I hadn't spoken to in years and telling them that it'll all be okay."
Meaghan then saw her mum waiting anxiously behind a strip of police tape.
Her mum grabbed her and sobbed in her daughter's ear. Meaghan said she couldn't cry, she couldn't feel anything.
"I lost a part of myself that day that I'll never get back," she said.
Later that night after Meaghan went home, she discovered a childhood friend, Zoë Raine Galasso, had been killed.
Meaghan said she suffers from PTSD and the healing process is ongoing.
"This shooting has affected my life in so many ways," she wrote.
"Any loud noise sends my pulse skyrocketing. A book slamming on a desk, loud beeping sounds, alarms, fire trucks, police sirens, banging noises. All of this immediately sends me back to that initial moment when the fear struck me. I can't trust people."
Meaghan said she was forever traumatised and did not know if she would ever relax again.
On the day of the shooting part of her was lost and replaced with crippling fear and anxiety she struggles with daily.
"I cannot tell you how many nights I have spent on the bathroom floor, crying, wheezing, hurting and just wishing things were different," she said.
"I am a survivor of a school shooting. I will always be afraid."