NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Every day since the Covenant shooting in March, the families impacted have had to completely reorient their lives.
“One of the ways that our day-to-day lives have been changed is that he’s still sleeping on a couch in our bedroom,” Becky Hansen said. “[Our son’s] been unable to sleep through the night in his own bed for the last four months.”
“He’s starting kindergarten. When I started kindergarten, I was picking out my first outfit and so excited to get a backpack, like I could still tell you all about that backpack I had,” Sarah Shoop Neumann agreed, separately. “To hear him saying, ‘What if my teachers aren’t coming back? What will we do differently? Do we still have to do fire drills?’ You just see the innocence robbed.”
Hansen’s son was in the school when the shooting happened. Neumann’s was not but her whole family met up at the reunification center in the aftermath.
“When we went to visit the memorial after school, he wrote the sweetest notes. Well, he told me what to write, he can only spell his name, he can’t even write. But he wanted to write to Mr. Mike [Hill], ‘Thank you for making my classroom perfect every day so we could have the nicest place to play,’” Neumann said. “On [Dr. Katherine Koonce’s], he wrote how much that we’ll miss her here but he’s glad she’s in Heaven because there were no bad people who could get her.”
They often drive by a church that has six crosses on display to memorialize the six victims of the shooting.
“He was counting the crosses, and he said, ‘I wish that there were seven. Maybe the shooter asked for forgiveness,’” Neumann said. “Those things, I’m thankful for his compassion and his faith, but it’s hard to hear a 6-year-old say that.”
At a recent art memorial in the community, she brought Noah. Kids were doing arts and crafts, and she thought it’d be good to let him let loose and feel a small sense of normalcy.
“He starts drawing and the first picture he draws is a picture of a person carrying a large gun with an X over it, and he said, ‘This is a bad guy, so this one shouldn’t have it,’” Neumann said. “Then he took another card and drew a casket. It’s just really hard to see.”
Every example is a grim reminder that the kids involved are dealing with this in ways we can’t even understand. But one thing surprising about every Covenant parent that News 2 spoke with—they’re not angry anymore.
Or at least, if they are, they’re not showing it.
What began as a sequence of rage, grief, and confusion has developed into a sense of solemn responsibility through the nonprofit.
“Another member of the organization, at one point, said, ‘We have to turn our pain into purpose,’ and it’s helped me heal,” Hansen said. “To know that we are doing something to try and help not only all of the victims’ families, all of the surviving families, but there are thousands of people in Tennessee and nationwide who are impacted by gun violence every day.”
But the trauma remains, like an anchor dragging behind you every single moment in your life.
“We have these survivors’ bags that have been forever etched into our skin as survivors of a mass shooting,” Hansen said. The pain and the grief and the hurt have not gone away, we’ve just gotten more used to it and learned how to integrate that into our daily lives.”
The families push on. They really don’t have a choice.
“This is our life now,” Neumann said. “We will be back in January [for regular session], we will be back next year. This is the long haul.”
Note: You can donate to or get involved with the nonprofit at covenantbrightertomorrows.org.
Proposals for tougher gun control have brought strong opinions and polarizing viewpoints from state lawmakers. News 2 explores what the people of Tennessee think in a special Voices of Tennessee report.