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How this Columbine survivor is helping scared students

When Lindsey O’Donnell survived the Columbine High School shooting at age 17, she relied on friends and family to cope with the anxiety that remained. Now a physical education teacher, she’s discovered fitness and mindfulness can also help alleviate the fear, and prepare her students for handling other stressful situations. NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs bring us her story.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And one postscript to Lisa's report.

    Students at Columbine didn't walk out today, since classes are never held on the anniversary of the shooting. But they are encouraged to participate in a day of service.

    And let's finish our look at this day with the story of a student who survived Columbine 19 years ago.

    The NewsHour's Student Reporting Lab at Legacy Early College High School in Greenville, South Carolina, interviewed physical education teacher Lindsey O'Donnell.

    She describes how she came to see mental health and mindfulness as the keys to healing.

  • Lindsey O’Donnell:

    My name is Lindsey O'Donnell. I'm a physical education teacher at Legacy Early College in Greenville, South Carolina.

    I was 17 years old during the Columbine shooting. It was my senior year of high school.

    My initial reaction was, I thought it was a fire drill. Someone might have pulled it. I thought it might have been a senior prank. We really didn't know.

  • Jim Lehrer:

    High school shooting in Littleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb. At least 20 people were wounded.

  • Lindsey O’Donnell:

    It was just chaos, people running, just crying, hysterical.

    It was shocking. It was just unheard of 19 years ago.

    I coped with the Columbine shooting mostly through the support of my friends, my family, and also through fitness. I became a physical education teacher and a soccer coach.

    When I was at Columbine, I wish I would have known a little more about mindfulness, not only for me. My friends would have coped with the situation differently. A lot of them coped with it through drugs or alcohol.

    Columbine was, like, the first big mass shooting. Nowadays, we have to practice lockdowns. And with that, students are stressed. They come to school scared. They're anxious. Every single day with my students, we start our day with a five-minute mindful moment. And by practicing mindfulness, it's not going to eliminate school shootings.

    However, fitness, mindfulness, and mental health can help.

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