A survivor of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado and the father of a victim of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida on Wednesday shared their thoughts on the mass shooting that claimed 21 lives Tuesday at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
The shooting at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday left 19 children, two teachers and the suspect dead in the largest shooting to take place at an elementary school since Newtown, Connecticut, shooting suspect Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Kacey Johnson hid beneath a table during the Columbine shooting that left 13 dead, using a chair to protect her, when she was shot in the shoulder at close range before fleeing with other survivors.
"I remember everything about that day at Columbine. To think that these kids are seeing and feeling the kinds of things I saw and felt in the library is so sad," Johnson told Fox News Digital. "I mean, they are babies and it’s heartbreaking, and I never could’ve thought it would happen to me, and it keeps happening to others. You just never think it could happen to you."
Johnson said that what angers her the most about school shootings is that people think "that at any point and for any reason…it's okay to do this to other people."
"It is a hard to life to step into. [N]obody wants to be in the ‘school shooting club.' [Y]ou are just thrown in without asking. Everything changes, and your old normal can never exist again," she said.
Ryan Petty, father of deceased 17-year-old Alaina Petty — a victim of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting — remembered that day in Parkland when he was part of a group text message with other parents trying to locate their kids after the Parkland shooting that killed 17, checking off names "one by one" and realizing his daughter's name was not on that list.
"Nobody knew where she was, and I remember that sinking feeling of 'oh no,’ nobody has seen her or heard from her. We weren’t able to reach her by phone, but we could see the location of her phone, and it didn’t move," Petty recalled.
There are two things that make him angry about school shootings: One, he "can't understand why someone chooses to attack innocent children in a place where they should be safe." And two, he gets "frustrated" when "almost immediately" after a school shooting, "we start fighting over gun control and it’s not the solution."
"None of the proposals in [C]ongress would have done anything to stop this," he said. "We don’t know everything about the attack and based on the attacks I study, none of these proposals would stop anything."
Petty continued: "[I]t looks like the school had taken some precautions, but like so many attacks, these attackers are insiders or have a way to get inside. It’s too early to tell if any mistakes were made, but I am sure we’re going to hear about warning signs that were ignored, that should’ve indicated pre-attack behaviors. It seems [like] every time, if we only pay attention to these early signs, we could prevent these tragedies."
Johnson reminded victims and parents of Tuesday's shooting that the "blame fully lies with the person who did it."
"[F]or me, as a parent dealing with hard things in the past, I teach my kids how to handle big emotions and provide them the tools to work through challenging times," she said. "Teach kids that their words and actions have a big impact around them. You have to give kids the tools to navigate the hard stuff."
Both Johnson and Petty emphasized the importance of communicating with others in the community after a tragedy such as a school shooting.
"If Uvalde is anything like the community in Parkland, and I am sure it is, people will come together to provide support and I imagine it will happen here," Petty said. "I can’t describe how important that is. People will care enough to remember the loved ones they lost. Looking back, the thing I love the most is when people remember and honor [my daughter], it’s the best you can hope for."
An investigation into Tuesday's shooting remains active and ongoing. Shooting suspect Salvador Ramos was killed after he took 21 lives. An agent with the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC), is believed to have fatally shot the suspected gunman. Two officers were shot and wounded on scene but were expected to survive.