Abigail Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, has recounted the moment she was shot by a 6-year-old student in January.
In her first interview since the incident, Zwerner told NBC News host Savannah Guthrie that she could not forget the look on the boy’s face as he aimed the gun at her.
She was hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the hand and chest after the bullet went through her left hand and lodged in her chest. Although she knew she had been shot, her first thought was of the safety of her other students. After ensuring her students’ safety, Zwerner passed out, believing she had died.
You can hear what Zwerner said in the video below.
EXCLUSIVE: Virginia teacher shot by 6-year-old student tells her story to TODAYwww.youtube.com
Zwerner said she was "terrified" when she realized what had happened and that she did not immediately realize how gravely she had been injured because she was focused on the safety of her other students:
“I remember him pointing the gun at me, I remember the look on his face. I remember the gun going off.”
“I was terrified. In that moment, my initial reaction was, ‘Your kids need to get out of here,’ you know? ‘This is not a safe classroom anymore.’ … I just wanted to get my babies out of there.”
After getting her students to safety, she said she "passed out" and thought she had died.
Zwerner underwent four surgeries since the shooting and was released from the hospital last month. Her hand still cannot be fully used, as the bullet went through her left hand, rupturing the middle bone, index finger, and thumb, before striking her in the chest. Zwerner believes that the bullet most likely saved her life as it went through her hand first.
"Some days are not so good days, where I can't get up out of bed. Some days are better than others, where I'm able to get out of bed and make it to my appointments." ...
"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." ...
"Physical therapy is not only physically exhausting but mentally exhausting as well. I'm supposed to be moving them once every hour, throughout the hour, just manipulating them to get that blood flowing and to get that movement back into the hand."
Many have expressed support for Zwerner and criticized the circumstances that led to the shooting.
The boy who allegedly shot Zwerner will not be criminally charged. He has an “acute disability” and was unaccompanied on the day of the shooting.
Two days before the shooting, the student allegedly broke Zwerner’s cell phone and cursed at guidance counselors, leading to a one-day suspension. The boy’s family has released a statement expressing regret for their absence on that day for the "rest of [their] lives."
The legal notice sent to the Newport News School Board by Zwerner’s attorney informed officials about the teacher’s plan to sue school administrators.
The notice alleged that teachers and employees alerted administrators three times on the day of the shooting that the student had a gun and was threatening people, but they failed to act despite having “knowledge of imminent danger”.