US mass shootings: Survivors of San Bernardino, Umpqua college, Sandy Hook and Aurora massacres speak

There have been more than 350 shotings injuring four or more people so far this year in the US

Lizzie Dearden@lizziedearden
Monday 07 December 2015 18:04
San Bernardino is struggling to deal with the aftermath of the shooting
San Bernardino is struggling to deal with the aftermath of the shooting

There have been more mass shootings than days this year in the US, leaving dozens dead and hundreds of survivors and witnesses traumatised by their escape.

Here are some of their stories:

Denise Peraza, 27

San Bernardino shooting, 2 December 2015

Wednesday morning at 10:55 am, we (Ms Peraza and colleague Shannon Johnson) were seated next to each other at a table, joking...I would have never guessed that only five minutes later, we would be huddled next to each other under that same table, using a fallen chair as a shield from over 60 rounds of bullets being fired across the room.

“I will always remember his left arm wrapped around me, holding me as close as possible next to him behind that chair, and amidst all the chaos, I'll always remember him saying these three words, 'I got you.' I believe I am still here today because of this amazing man.

”This amazing, selfless man who always brought a smile to everyone's face in the office...this is Shannon Johnson, who will be deeply missed by all ... my friend, my hero.“

Ms Peraza was treated for a gunshot wound in her back. Mr Johnson died of his injuries.

As told to ABC News

USA: San Bernardino shooting "an act of terrorism" - Obama

Cheyeanne Fitzgerald, 16

Umpqua Community College shooting, 1 October 2015

“I just lied there. I didn’t save anybody. I couldn’t even get up off the ground. The thing I keep thinking about is how that b******d stepped on me, like I wasn’t even human, like I was nothing.”

Cheyeanne was shot in the back after seeing nine of her classmates killed but when it became clear she was alive, gunman Christopher Harper-Mercer asked her what her religion was.

When she said she didn’t know and told him she didn’t want to die, Harper-Mercer said he would let her live if she got up but stood on her arm.

He was distracted by sounds at the classroom door and shot himself minutes later as police approached.

“That’s when I got hysterical, I was coughing and spitting up all this blood,” Cheyeanne said. “I basically knew I was going to die.

“I wasn’t strong. That’s the thing. I couldn’t even get up. I just laid there, like nothing.”

As told to the Washington Post

Kaitlin Roig-Debellis, 32

Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, 14 December 2012

The teacher hid her 15 pupils in a toilet as Adam Lanza went from room to room massacring children, teachers and staff.

“It was completely unreasonable to think that by hiding in a bathroom we’d survived. I went to counselling because I was convinced I wasn’t alive.”

“After my darkest hour it became clear that people wanted to connect their pain with my pain. They wanted to tell me about their terminal cancer, their son’s suicide, about the death of their husband. Pain is universal (but) we know there’s a choice.

“I was repeatedly trying to answer why (it happened) and coming to a dead end. I realised that wasn’t a way to live. In terms of answering why, I realised I was never going to answer why. I really needed to focus on questions I could answer. Those questions were: ‘How do I make sure this doesn’t define us?’ and ‘How do we get our control back?’”

As told to

Sandy Hook Elementary School

Bonnie Kate Pourciau, 18

Aurora cinema shooting, 20 July 2012

The teenager and her friend, Elizabeth Sumrall, stopped to see The Dark Knight Rises while driving from Seattle to their homes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

When the gunfire broke out, Miss Pourciau said she thought it was special effects in the film but suddenly realised what the sound was.

She said: “That's when I grabbed Elizabeth and we ducked under our seats.”

Crouched behind her seat, she prayed. “Lord, just protect us, keep us safe,” she recalled thinking. “That's when I felt a big ole bang in my leg.”

Once the shooting stopped, Miss Pourciau tried to run from the cinema, but didn't get far. “Of course, I fell because my knee is all gone,” she said about the bullet wound that shattered her knee. “I tried to run and just stumbled and fell.”

“Elizabeth laid me on the concrete,” she said, before a police officer and National Guard member approached to give her first aid.

“I was overwhelmed with the sense of security and peace — that it was going to be ok.”

A roadside memorial set up for victims of the Colorado theater shooting massacre across the street from Century 16 movie theater July 29, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado. 

As told to CNN affiliate KMGH

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