AMERICAN FORK — Every time Amber Wright hears about another school shooting her heart breaks. Wright is a survivor of the Columbine school shooting 14 years ago. She was in the library when the shooting started.
She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and her journey of emotional recovery has been long. She doesn't have advice for those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. She just wants to give them hope.
A total of 26 people — 20 students and six adults — were shot and killed in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14. For the families, there's a long recovery ahead.
"They're too little, too young to have to deal with these kinds of emotions, deal with this fear," Wright said.
She said it took her four years, three therapists, one medical doctor and two sleep specialists to finally function with some degree of normality.
When she struggled to recover from the shooting at Columbine High School, cards from strangers gave her hope. Many were messages from children. She said she would read them over and over.
After a while the hurt goes away, and you don't have to think about it anymore. It gets better.
–Amber Wright, columbine survivor
A holocaust survivor shared her wisdom with Columbine survivors after the shooting.
"She said that if you don't do anything, the pain is wasted," Wright recalled.
That thought stuck with her as she waited for the right time to act. When she saw news of other mass shootings over the years, she did not feel as though she could do something. This time she decided she could. She wanted to give people in Connecticut messages of hope.
Wright taught fourth-graders for five years before leaving work to raise a family and knows how traumatic events can leave young students feeling vulnerable.
The cards she was given gave Wright the idea to create a picture book. That way if someone doesn't feel like talking, they have a book to look at to bring comfort, she said.
"After a while the hurt goes away, and you don't have to think about it anymore," she wrote in her book. "It gets better."
She's self-publishing the book with the help of fellow Columbine survivor Liz Carlston with photographs by Sarah Wood.
The book addresses symptoms of PTSD in children's terms and shows how things get better. She plans to give copies of her book to the survivors in Connecticut.
The book has messages like, "Just remember, there are many happy days ahead," and, "This takes time, but you will get better."
She also wants them to know that "you will start to feel stronger than you were before, and you will discover new amazing things about yourself."
At first, Wright did not think that was possible. She feared she had no future and worried about her safety. She understands the emotions that came up after a mass shooting.
"Don't give up," she said. "There were a lot of times I felt like my life was over."
Wright said she doesn't know if she will ever be fully recovered, because the event is just part of her now. She said there will always be some sadness for what happened that day in 1999.
She wants to raise $5,000 to get her book published and sent to the Newtown community. She is doing her fundraising effort through gofundme.com. As of Friday afternoon, she had raised nearly $2,000 on her fundraising page. Any extra money raised will go to the survivor fund.
She is also holding a Sandy Hook Fundraiser at Highland Gardens on 9736 N. 4800 West in Highland, on Feb. 28 beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc