Survivor Recalls 1998 School Shooting
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
We turn now to a young woman who survived a school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998. Mary Hollis Inboden was in sixth grade when two boys opened fire from the trees outside a playground. Her best friend was killed along with a teacher and three other students.
Welcome to the program.
Ms. MARY HOLLIS INBODEN: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: We spoke with you a couple of years ago about how your community was healing from that tragedy. Now, how has watching the events at Virginia Tech affected you?
Ms. INBODEN: Well, you know, it's quite bizarre, because the shooting at my school happened in 1998 and about a year after that - a year and a month - was Columbine. And we were just starting our healing process. And I'm college-age now. I'm 21, and again, I'm the same age as a lot of the students that are being affected by the Virginia Tech massacre. And it's very difficult, Renee, to try and move on when these horrible, horrible things keep happening.
MONTAGNE: At the time, your school - your town - was under an intense media spotlight, as is Virginia Tech this week. How much did that affect you?
Ms. INBODEN: Oh, it was absolutely horrible. They were giving us information faster than the school could give us information - a lot like what seems to be going on now at Virginia Tech. So we kind of relied on the media to give us that information, but you're also trying to see through the rumors of the media. And the media surrounded our campus until the end of the school year. The shooting happened in March and they were there until, you know, the beginning of June.
MONTAGNE: Back then, in the media aftermath, what helped you to deal with that experience?
Ms. INBODEN: You know, I think it's really important, Renee, that I had very good parents. They were there with me to support me and make sure that I was looked after. I also was very quickly surrounded by good people - you know, counselors and ministers that the school had brought in that said, you know, it's okay to be frightened and scared and confused and that is all part of this process of healing. And after a while I think I just decided, you know - and I can't remember how long it was after the shooting - but I decided that I wasn't going to be scared for my entire life. And that's actually what has led me to be able to do the things that I'm doing as far as theater, which is, you know, one of my greatest passions, and working and moving to different cities. And I moved to Memphis for college and now I'm in Chicago.
MONTAGNE: One thing you did tell us when we spoke with you before, you said your mother at first had to help you get through every Tuesday.
Ms. INBODEN: That's true. I would always fake an illness. That is the day that the shooting happened; that's the day that I associated with death. And what's interesting about that is even though I'm not particularly scared of Tuesdays anymore, now in my older age I am frightened of the month of March. It takes a little bit more for me to live and be happier, and emotions kind of flare up during that month more than any other, especially when something happens that is as horrible as the shooting at Virginia Tech.
MONTAGNE: As you said, you're just about their age now. What would you say to the students at Virginia Tech still so close to this week's shootings?
Ms. INBODEN: I'm not sure that anything that I say will offer them any kind of comfort right now. But in bad, ugly times we need people close to us. And definitely, definitely to keep the people who were there, who have been affected, close, because those are the people that you are going to share a very, very, very hard bond with for the rest of your life, and to have those people close will provide the students a lot of comfort in years to come.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for talking with us again.
Ms. INBODEN: Thank you, Renee.
MONTAGNE: Mary Hollis Inboden survived the school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas nine years ago. She now lives and works in Chicago.
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