Teacher Shot by Child: 'I Thought I Had Died'

Abigail Zwerner describes classroom attack and her recovery struggles
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2023 2:50 PM CDT
Teacher Shot by Child: 'I Thought I Had Died'
Messages of support for teacher Abigal Zwerner, who was shot by a 6-year-old student, grace the front door of Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, on Jan. 9.   (AP Photo/John C. Clark, File)

There was a moment when Abigail Zwerner and a 6-year-old boy looked each other in the eye, just before the Virginia teacher was shot. "I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me," she said. Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, described the Jan. 6 ordeal in an interview shown Tuesday on NBC's Today. Zwerner said she already was afraid after hearing earlier in the day that one of her students had a gun. Then, while reading to students at a small table, NBC News reports, she saw the boy sitting a few feet away holding a handgun, his fingers on the trigger.

The bullet hit her hand first, which Zwerner said might have saved her life, then went into her upper chest. It's still there. As her students screamed, she shepherded them from the classroom. "I just wanted to get my babies out of there," Zwerner said. A school employee held the boy for police, and she went to the office and passed out. "I thought I had died," she said. Taken to a hospital, Zwerner underwent a series of operations and now has pins in her left hand to stabilize the bones. She doesn't know whether she'll regain full use of the hand.

The 25-year-old said she's struggling to recover but tries to remain positive, per the Washington Post. "Some days are not so good days where I can't get up out of bed," Zwerner said. "Some days are better than others where I can get out of bed and make it to my appointments." A prosecutor has said the boy won't be charged because of his age; his mother could be charged with neglect or not keeping the 9mm pistol secured. Julie Zwerner said her daughter keeps trying, calling her inspiring. "It's tragic how much her life has changed and just to see her having to go through what she's going through," Julie Zwerner said on Today, to see "how difficult just raising one finger of her left hand can be." (More school shooting stories.)

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