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Crystal Woodman Miller was just 16 when she hid under a table during one of the nation’s most infamous school shootings.
“If you remember the details about Columbine, you would know that the library was the scene of the most intense violence, and I was there in the library for those seven and a half minutes as terror reigned,” Miller told Oxygen Digital Correspondent Stephanie Gomulka at CrimeCon 2019, adding that she escaped the library physically unharmed. Ten of the 13 victims the two shooters claimed before taking their own lives during the 1999 massacre were murdered in the library.
“Obviously, over the last 20 years, I have had to overcome a great deal of obstacles to be where I am today,” she said.
Miller has since written a book about her experience entitled “Marked for Life.” She speaks about gun violence and calls herself an advocate for hope. When mass shootings erupt in other communities, Miller makes herself available.
Tragically, the opportunity to help others going through similar scenarios happens all too often in America, Miller said.
"You know, it has been hard, because, unfortunately, we see an increase in the amount of gun violence and massive incidences that we see around the world, and specifically in Colorado, where I live,” she said.
Just last month, one student was killed and eight injured at a school in Highlands Ranch, just a few miles from Columbine High School.
“I just feel like it’s been one thing after another, and it’s always really hard to turn on the TV and see that there’s another community that is struggling with the unanswerable questions,” Miller told Gomulka.”The impact is so far-reaching on lives and, unfortunately, now we're seeing so many communities where this has become so commonplace.”
She said her goal is to link arms with these very communities, calling herself a physical testament to the fact that a mass shooting is not the end.
“It feels like the end right now, but I am standing here to let you know that there is life beyond this tragedy and that’s a hard place to step into,” she explained to Gomulka. “It’s very sacred to step into a community that has experienced violence of any kind, and I don't take that for granted.”
Miller added that, for her, visiting communities in the aftermath of a shooting is not a re-traumatization, because she took the time to get the help she needed after the Columbine shootings.
“I’m not back under the table in the library; I'm not experiencing it all over again,” Miller said. “I've got the help I needed.”
Part of the healing process meant riding through the rough feelings. Every time she feels emotions about what happened, Miller said, she faces them head-on, rather than pushing difficult feelings away.
“You have to feel in order to heal,” she said. “So, I've done the work, so that I can be there as a support for others.”
After the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech, Arapahoe High School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Miller visited each community and spoke. Additionally, she visited and spoke in Winnenden, Germany, after that community suffered through a school shooting.
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