KY School shooting survivor disheartened nothing has changed 25 years later

PADUCAH, Ky. (WKRN) — A school shooting survivor shared her story of one of the first mass school shootings in the country.

Missy Jenkins Smith is paralyzed from the chest down. She was shot dead in the 1997 Heath High School shooting in Paducah, Kentucky.

Missy said her memory of the day is sharp because she is reminded of it every day as she cannot walk and therefore functions as regularly as most.

Missy was 15, a sophomore at Heath High School, one of eight students shot after a prayer circle that December morning in 1997. Three of her friends did not survive.

Missy said after saying “Amen” she heard what she thought were firecrackers and thought it was a prank.

“It was three slow pops and a hail of bullets and I was hit by the spray and I didn’t even know I was shot because I didn’t even feel it hit me. It was almost like my whole body went numb, almost like I fainted, that’s how I can describe it because my whole body went numb, my hearing was ringing in my ears and I remember going to fell to the ground but it felt like I was floating. ” She explained.

The bullet went through Missy’s left shoulder, missing all major arteries and organs in her body except her lungs, she said.

A 14-year-old freshman, Michael Carneal, a friend of hers, fired the shots. The shooter later said he was being bullied and that there were voices telling him to riot, Missy explained.

She said it was haunting to see the Texas shooting and that nothing had been done about 25 years after its incident. She thought at the time that what had happened in Paducah and the victims of a Mississippi school shooting just months earlier were anomalies. Jonesboro, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and countless other school and public place shootings have proved her wrong.

Missy said it’s an important conversation, that students need to speak up if they see anything special, and that she wants schools to get more funding for safety measures – like metal detectors and school resource officers. She added that mental health is an important issue that also needs to be addressed.

Missy forgave the shooter that day and has stayed positive since the tragedy, though her life has changed forever. Now she shares her stories in schools across the country and has written a book, I Choose to Be Happy: A School Shooting Survivor’s Triumph Over Tragedy.

“I was just blessed to be alive and I could have been one of the three and even though I was in a wheelchair and couldn’t walk at the time, I would get a chance to have life and live even if it was from a wheelchair that three other girls wouldn’t get and I think that way I could take everything and make it a positive thing because I had to keep reminding myself of what I had and what it could have been.” , she explained.

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Carneal has a parole hearing later this year, but Missy is hoping he stays behind bars. KY School shooting survivor disheartened nothing has changed 25 years later

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