For the first time publicly since the incident, Abigail Zwerner speaks about the incident on Jan 6. when her six-year-old student shot and nearly-fatally injured her in class. In an interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, she said the look on the student’s face behind the gun haunted her to this day.
What was a typical morning at Richneck Elementary grew unsettling once Zwerner began hearing murmurs of one of her students bringing a firearm to school. The day prior, the student in question was suspended for breaking Zwerner’s cell phone and had prior run-ins with students and staff, according to attorney Diane Toscano. Upon the talks of a gun, Zwerner said over the course of the day her fear continued to grow.
Then, just an hour before dismissal, she peered over the book she was reading to her students to see the 6-year-old holding a 9mm handgun, probably twice the size of his own hand, and pointing it at her.
“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 to TODAY.
Read more of her interview from NBC News:
A bullet ripped through her left hand, rupturing bones before it lodged in her upper chest, where it remains. Although she was seriously wounded, she sprang into action to quickly collect the other children and usher them to safety. Frightened screams echoed in the class of about 20 students.
“That was pretty shocking itself,” she said of getting shot without warning. “But I just wanted to get my babies out of there.”
The events that followed were a blur, she said, speaking publicly for the first time Monday with “TODAY” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie. And, Zwerner said, she’s still coming to grips with the trauma and her recovery journey in an incident that grabbed national headlines and exposed what other teachers and parents described as failures by school administrators.
Zwerner wasn’t even sure she would survive. After she fled her classroom, she went to the school office, and her breathing grew heavy and her vision dimmed. She lay on the floor as two co-workers applied pressure to stem the bleeding before an ambulance arrived.
Zwerner said her injuries included a collapsed lung and shattered hand which required pins to stabilize the bones. Still, she’s unsure that even with physical therapy her hand will ever be fully functional again. Additionally, because of where the bullet was lodged, she was left with fragments in her upper chest.
Daily, she still lives with the shock and vivid memories of that day. Sometimes, she even has nightmares, she said. Though, out of the darkness of this horrid incident came a surge of support from strangers all around the country which Zwerner said inspired her to move forward in a positive way.
“It helps me remember to take each day as they come. Each day is special. I’m still here. I believe I made it here for a reason,” she said.
What Happened to the Student?
Following the shooting, the student was held in temporary detention at a medical facility being treated for an acute disability. His parents explained in a statement that the gun was a legal purchase of the boy’s mother and secured in the home.
They also said the day of the shooting was the one time they hadn’t accompanied the boy to class per their usual schedule.
Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn decided not to seek criminal charges against the boy based on his incompetency to understand the legal system. However, there’s a possibility his parents may face charges for leaving a weapon unsupervised around or accessible to a minor.