January 6th was supposed to be a regular day for Abigail Zwerner, who was a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, VA. She woke up that day with the same intent as any other day – which was to teach her ‘babies,’ as she called them, and be the best teacher she could be.
Things took a turn for the worse when one of her 6-year-old male students took a gun out of his backpack and proceeded to aim it at Zwerner. Within seconds, she was left with a gunshot wound to her hand and chest. Out of instinct, she managed to get the other students out of the room before seeking medical help.
Zwerner ended up surviving the attack and should make a full recovery, but the process hasn’t been easy – not just physically but emotionally and mentally. And, while she has mostly been silent since then, she recently sat down with Savannah Guthrie of TODAY to discuss everything that happened that fateful day.
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In the interview, which aired on March 21, Abigail Zwerner said that her hand – which made initial contact with the bullet – was what likely saved her life. She also said she remembers the moment he pointed the gun at her, the look on his face, the gun going off, and ‘feeling something’ – calling it a ‘pretty scary day.’
“There’s some things that I’ll never forget. And I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me. That’s something that I will never forget. It’s changed me. It’s changed my life,” she said in the interview. She also described the moment her instincts kicked in.
After getting shot, her initial instinct wasn’t to seek medical help. Instead, she was worried about her students. “I just wanted to get my babies out of there,” she explained. And that’s exactly what she did. Once they were safe, she made her way into a nearby office – with holes in her hand and chest.
“I didn’t know at the time that my lung had collapsed, but I started not being able to breathe, very raspy breaths and my vision started going out. I remember I went to the office, and I just passed out. I thought I had died,” she continued. It wasn’t long before first responders arrived and began to preserve her life.
Abigail Zwerner is Staying Positive Through the Recovery Process
Abigail Zwerner hasn’t fully recovered from the attack, but she continues to make strides in that area and is ‘doing okay’ at the moment. She called the recovery process ‘challenging,’ adding that some days are definitely better than others – she has days where she can’t get out of bed, but other days where she can.
“But, you know, for going through what I’ve gone through, I try to stay positive. You know, try to have a positive outlook on what’s happened and where my future’s heading,” she said of her recovery. In the meantime, she wants to make sure that something like this doesn’t ever happen to another teacher.
Zwerner went on to explain how the January 6 attack could’ve been prevented, adding that there were several warning signs of poor behavior in the student prior to the incident. For example, she reached out for help when the 6-year-old student threatened to beat up another student earlier that morning.
There were two other incidents that morning that could’ve helped prevent the shooting – one where the 6-year-old student’s backpack was searched and another where the 6-year-old student showed another student the gun during recess. If handled properly, the child should’ve never had the opportunity he did.
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While the city isn’t filing any charges, Zwerner’s attorney – Diane Toscano – plans on filing a complaint against the school. “I can tell you there were failures on multiple levels in this case, and there were adults that were in positions of authority that could have prevented this tragedy from happening and did not,” said Toscano.
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