Soon after Dimitrios Pagourtzis allegedly killed 10 people three rooms away from where she sat in her class at Santa Fe High School in Texas on Friday, 17-year-old Paige Curry was asked by ABC News’ Houston affiliate whether part of her didn’t think the event was “real” — that it couldn’t have happened at her high school.
Eyes downcast and arms crossed, Curry slowly shook her head.
“No, there wasn’t,” she said. “It’s been happening everywhere. I felt — I’ve always kind of felt like eventually, it was going to happen here, too.”
Curry may not be alone in that expectation. While the long-term effects of the trauma associated with mass shootings is not well documented, mental health experts say that the shock of such an attack can reverberate through a community and could even instill itself in those who attend seemingly safe schools across the country.
“We’re adapting now to what the new reality is: that no one is immune to violence,” said Vilma Torres, director of Safe Horizon’s at the Bronx Family Justice Center in New York. “Now we have to think about how do I continue to get up in the morning? How do I enter a school? How do I go to the mall and prepare myself? We’re now having conversations with adolescents and even adults that if I hear a sound where do I go? What do I do? Where do I hide?”
It’s possible that shootings like the one that occurred in Santa Fe Friday or in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day also echo in people’s lives who aren’t immediately affected, especially as these events continue to happen, experts told NBC News. Those survivors’ trauma can be felt in the lives of those who reside miles away.
“People can feel helpless and that’s a reaction that many people experience when they go through trauma,” said Dr. Sheila Rauch, an associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine and clinical director of the university’s veterans program. “They feel helpless like there’s nothing they can do.”
That feeling of helplessness is tied to a sense that a school shooting is inevitable. For many it’s when, not if, the next shooting will occur — and that’s a fear familiar to shooting victims.