Arapahoe High School Shooting Survivor Felt ‘Bombarded’ By News Media

December 17, 2015
Photo: Arapahoe High School memorial (AP Photo)
In this December 2013 file photo, Arapahoe High School students hug at a tribute site for fatally-wounded student Claire Davis, who was shot by classmate Karl Pierson during a school attack six days earlier at Arapahoe High School, in Centennial, Colo.

In the wake of the shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, CPR News asked for listeners' opinions on how the media covers gun violence.  One response we got was from Addie Finch, who was a sophomore at Arapahoe High School in 2013 when a student gunman attacked the school. One student, 17-year-old Claire Davis, died. 

Here's Addie Finch's story:

I'm a school shooting victim. I was a sophomore at Arapahoe High School when a gunman walked into my school and started firing shots. I was in the building for a few hours before being evacuated.

In that time, my class and I gradually figured out what was happening through our smart phones. We Googled Arapahoe High School Shooting, and news stories were already written. The threat hadn't even been fully resolved, and we were looking at photographs of SWAT teams raiding our school building and more police cars than we could count parked along the side of the road. The story was constantly changing, and the death and injured count fluctuating, and different names circulating like hot gossip.

After evacuation and hours of waiting, I was finally reunited with my family, and had to turn the car radio off on the way home because of the endless stream of gun debates, with MY tragedy being used as a talking point. Just getting into the car was hard— news reporters waited as we emerged from the church we had taken refuge in, and tried to ask us questions. I remember thinking they were selfish vultures.

It turned out that I knew the shooter. He was one of the captains of the speech and debate team, which I was a religious member of. He wanted to kill our debate coach, who I was incredibly close with. Because of my perspective, a friend of a friend who worked for The Today Show got in contact with us, and asked that my brother and I film at the crack of dawn the following morning to talk about our experience. I was still in shock, but agreed to do it.

That night, I was pre-interviewed by this woman. I summarized my experience, relived it, and could not stop shaking as I spoke. I kept agreeing to keep going, even as my legs went numb and hands grew cold and sweaty. I don't know why I did this. I remember being incredibly uncomfortable, but continually agreeing to indulge in the interview.

The woman asked if I could text my speech and debate coach to see if he wanted to be interviewed by The Today Show too, so I did. This destroyed me. I didn't feel guilty until after I sent the message, and was overcome with painful regret. He had been through the unimaginable just hours before, and I was one of the selfish vultures that wanted his side of the story.

I, along with my twin brother and another girl, was interviewed the next morning in front of the school building. A woman from The Today Show called us from New York and we listened to her questions through an earpiece. All of the questions for me were about the gunman and what I knew about him. I answered as honestly as I could, but felt sad when it was over. I thought that I was going to talk about my experience and the community's rally, but instead I had to speak about the shooter.

Even before the shooting, I had hated the media and their glorification of criminals. Now I was the glorifier, and I felt stupid. I spent the next few days immersing myself in my town's vigils and prayer groups, which helped a lot. I avoided watching TV because my school was a constant news coverage. It was hard, and the moral of it all is that the media did not help me, nor did it help any of the other victims, one bit.

We returned to school a week later to retrieve the things we left behind, and were greeted once again by news crew after news crew. It was exhausting and annoying and I was so done with constantly being reminded in one way or another of the crap I had been through. The media were treating us like reality TV stars, following every move we made. When classes resumed three weeks after the shooting, the news crews filmed us walking inside and conducted more and more interviews.
     
We, as the victims, were bombarded. Or at least it felt that way. Everyone wanted to know how we felt, but all WE wanted was privacy to grieve. Our tragic story was used as a debate topic. The media desperately wanted a glimpse inside the troubled teen that shot up his school, so they used a vulnerable kid in shock as their source. We suffered, and the media played our suffering over and over again on TV screens across the nation.