Abigail Zwerner is ready to tell her story.
As we previously reported, the Virginia resident was a teacher at Richneck Elementary School where on January 6 the unthinkable happened. An unnamed 6-year-old allegedly took a handgun from his home, showed up to school with it in his backpack, and then shot and wounded his teacher. What went down in that first-grade classroom was called an “intentional act” by a student with a history of violence by law enforcement at the time.
In an act of bravery, Abby was able to get all of her students out of the classroom and to safety while suffering from a gunshot wound in her hand and chest. She was praised as a hero by police, the community, and people around the world. But what actually happened from her point of view?
On Tuesday’s episode of The Today Show, the 25-year-old sat down with her mom and sister and recounted that horrifying experience. Throughout the day, Abby heard whispers of rumors that a student had a gun, but she claims no one took the threat seriously or did anything about it. She recalled just before 2 p.m. she was reading to her classroom when her eyes found the young boy with his tiny fingers wrapped around the trigger of a 9 mm handgun:
“I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me.”
The gun went off and a bullet went through her hand before it lodged in her chest. She didn’t have time to think, though — and quickly gathered up her classroom of about 20 screaming students and got them out of there before anyone else was injured:
“That was pretty shocking itself. But I just wanted to get my babies out of there.”
Such a selfless and heroic act. It’s harrowing to imagine what could’ve happened if she didn’t save those children…
Everything that occurred after the initial scare was a blur, according to Abigail, and she’s still struggling to deal with the trauma she got from the incident. She describes not ever being sure she’d survive, saying her vision dimmed and her breathing got shallow as she ran toward the front office. Eventually she collapsed and her coworkers applied pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding before the ambulance arrived — an act which very much saved her life.
“I remember I went to the office and I just passed out. I thought I had died.”
Later on, her sister Hannah and her mother Julie found her at the hospital. Thinking back to the first time she saw Abby after the shooting, her sister told the outlet:
“She looked bad. Really out of it, really fragile.”
Life-saving doctors and surgeons at Riverside Regional Medical Center performed many operations on the young teacher, including one where they inserted pins into her hand to stabilize the bones that were damaged by the gunshot. The educator said she’s still going to physical therapy, but she’s not sure if she’ll ever regain previous functionality of her injured hand. Julie said her daughter is “inspiring” due to what all she’s continued to fight through:
“It’s tragic how much her life has changed and just to see her having to go through what she’s going through. To see how hard she’s trying, how difficult just raising one finger of her left hand can be. But she keeps trying. She is inspiring.”
Attorney Howard Gwynn said last month he wouldn’t seek charges against the 6-year-old for the crime because there’s no way a child of that age could understand the legal system — but that doesn’t mean this crime is going without punishment. Lawyer Diane Toscano, representing Abigail, expects to file a lawsuit against the school board soon following an intent-to-sue following the shooting. The notice claims over a few hours on the day of the incident, school employees warned an assistant principal three different times about the gun but she failed to call police or institute a lockdown. The attorney told the outlet on Monday:
“There were failures on multiple levels in this case, and there were adults that were in positions of authority that could have prevented this tragedy from happening and did not.”
The family’s attorney, James Ellenson, welcomed Gwynn’s decision to not seek charges against the child on Monday, saying “continue to pray for Ms. Zwerner’s complete recovery.” Whereas Toscano declined to comment about the decision and said she believes “there are people that need to be held accountable.”
As for Abby — well, she’s just taking it one day at a time. Her lifelong dream was to become a teacher, and she said her first day at the elementary school was life-affirming, but now things are understandably different:
“I’m not sure when the shock will ever go away because of just how surreal it was and, you know, the vivid memories that I have of that day. I think about it daily. Sometimes I have nightmares.”
Although, as she continues to recover, she still just misses “her babies”:
“I love each and every one of them. I’m very grateful that they’re all alive and they’re safe and they’re healthy. And I just miss them dearly.”
You can watch Abby’s full interview (below):
What a remarkable woman with such incredible positivity! We’re so glad to hear she’s doing better and continue to wish her a speedy recovery.
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