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Virginia Tech shooting survivors reflect on Texas school tragedy, call for change

Moms Demand Action (Courtesy: Caitlin Czeh)
Moms Demand Action (Courtesy: Caitlin Czeh)
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Caitlin Czeh and Ashley Cohen said Tuesday was nothing short of heart-wrenching as they watched yet another mass shooting unfold.

"A full emotional breakdown of just sadness that turned into anger and then just kind of, a numbness," said Cohen.

Czeh said, "It was just so much anger and I just, I literary needed to sit in quiet for most of the afternoon and evening, I just couldn't; I couldn't deal with anything."

They are survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, now reflecting on the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas.

A mass shooting is something they've lived through themselves, and something they said they are forced to relive every time another community is hit with this type of tragedy.

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Caitlin Czeh and Ashley Cohen don’t consider themselves victims they are survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

"It's a painful community that nobody wants to be a part of," said Czeh, "But, there's comfort in knowing there are others in the community who you can lean on when you're not having a good day."

They met one another years later after joining survivor's groups, like Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization calling for stricter gun laws.

These women know firsthand the horrors of a lockdown caused by an active shooter.

Czeh recalled, "The building was locked down almost immediately. So, probably, from about eight o'clock in the morning, I was on lockdown."

Cohen had memory loss, caused by trauma, she said, "The shooter that had been in the resident halls not long prior, was on his way to the building that I worked in; and the truth is I don't remember a lot from hearing that sentence to what happened next, I've had it retold to me."

Plus, Czeh remembers hearing heartbreaking goodbye messages from her family members.

She said, "They started out as frantic phone calls trying to get in touch with me, 'we need to hear from you, we need to hear from you', to my family members telling me goodbye."

These two strong women break down, knowing another community will now carry those same pains forever.

"The Virginia Tech shooting happened in 2007 and it took me a decade later of processing everything. Trauma does awful and strange things to you and can up end your life in a variety of ways," said Cohen.

Czeh explained, "It doesn't get better with time, but it lessens with time; the pain lessens with time."

After seeing shooting, after shooting, after shooting, these survivors said it feels different every time.

This time, they're holding onto a hope that this time will be the time they see change.

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"I hope they don't hear empty promises," said Cohen. "I hope they're not seeing what I have called for years this, this cycle. This vicious flurry of attention and then outrage and then protests and demonstration and then it just fizzles; because nothing actually happens."

Czeh added, "I hope that someday these little kids grow up to light this world on fire with all that they are destined to be and that they can change the world from their little town in texas to the entire country."

While Czeh and Cohen hope that the Uvalde community is surrounded by love and the resources they need as they begin to navigate in the aftermath of tragedy, they're pleading for change; for Uvalde to be the last community to have to call themselves mass shooting survivors.

"We're calling for more common-sense gun laws," said Czeh. "We are calling on the Senate to pass the background checks bill for a background check on every gun sale; not just gun sales from licensed dealers, but from private citizens as well."

June 3rd is national gun violence awareness day.

Other victims of gun violence from Moms Demand Action, Regina Hemingway and Diane Terrill are also calling for change.

Terrill, a former teacher, is from the town in Colorado where the 1999 Columbine shooting left 15 people dead.

Hemingway's son, Cody, was shot and killed in November last year.

They said they don't want to take away guns, but are calling for control, stricter laws, and better education on guns.

"It may not help my son, but hopefully it'll help somebody else's child, so they won't have to go through what I've been through," said Hemingway.

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Terrill said, "This is a primary year. I think we need to ask anyone who's running for office what their plan is and what they wanna do and how they plan to solve the problem."

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