Column: Three years after being shot in school, this teen has made our survival her combat


2022-11-24 18:30:22

Earlier than she was shot within the abdomen at Saugus Excessive Faculty, Mia Tretta volunteered at a Los Angeles meals financial institution yearly round Thanksgiving.

On Nov. 14, 2019, within the minutes earlier than a bullet from a ghost gun hit her, Mia was on the cellphone together with her mother, Tiffany Shepis-Tretta. They had been attempting to determine a day Mia may skip college to pack packing containers of meals with out lacking a check. She was strolling into class after being dropped off by her grandmother on the Santa Clarita campus.

So carefree, Tiffany thinks now, remembering her daughter as a freshman. So laborious to assume how small the issues had been.

Seconds after Mia hung up, a fellow pupil pulled a .45 caliber semiautomatic — created from a package offered by a still-operating web enterprise in Chula Vista — and fired into the quad.

He killed two college students, together with Mia’s finest pal Dominic Blackwell, and wounded three earlier than taking his personal life. Harm and dazed, Mia ran right into a classroom.

College students stroll to a reunification space after a gunman opened hearth at Saugus Excessive in November 2019.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Instances)

Most of us barely bear in mind the Saugus Excessive taking pictures, headline information when it occurred three years in the past. And why would we? There have been many extra college shootings since, and a whole bunch of acts of gun violence in California and throughout the nation this yr alone. The Gun Violence Archive places the quantity at greater than 600 to date in 2022 — together with 21 lifeless in Uvalde, Texas, and 10 gunned down in a grocery retailer in Buffalo, N.Y.

Colorado Springs, Colo., was the brand new headline, 5 lifeless Saturday night time in an LGBTQ membership. Then Tuesday night time introduced one other horror. Seven folks lifeless in a Virginia Walmart, together with the gunman, who used his ultimate shot on himself.

Are you able to even title any of the others? Do you bear in mind in April when a gunman wounded 10 in a New York subway automotive? Or Could when an offended man killed one and wounded 4 on the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods?

Or June in Oklahoma when one more armed man killed 5 at a medical heart and left extra with “non-life threatening accidents,” which is absolutely only a chilly and careless method of claiming welcome to a lifetime of trauma, each for the victims and people who love them.

“You’ll be able to’t wait to care till it occurs to you,” Mia advised me Tuesday. And if telling her story, driving that time dwelling, will get the eye of only one individual, it’s definitely worth the salt-in-the-wound ache of digging up the small print, she mentioned.

“On the charge that gun violence is occurring now, everybody goes to know someone, everyone goes to have gun violence contact them,” she mentioned. “The entire world is hurting. All of those shootings taking place over and time and again is difficult for me. However its additionally so extremely laborious for our complete nation.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom during a news conference at Santa Monica College on July 22, 2022.

Gov. Gavin Newsom wipes a tear after pondering of his personal daughter when gun violence survivor Mia Tretta, left, advised her story beforehe signed Senate Invoice 1327, gun laws modeled after Texas’ abortion ban, into legislation at Santa Monica School on July 22. Tretta was wounded and her finest pal was killed within the 2019 taking pictures at Saugus Excessive Faculty.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Instances)

She’s a senior now, nonetheless at Saugus Excessive, however spends a lot of her time as a gun-sense advocate with organizations together with College students Demand Motion. These previous couple of weeks, with the shootings in Colorado and Virginia, the strain of a vacation meant to underscore gratefulness and the three-year anniversary of the Saugus taking pictures, have been laborious — for Mia’s complete household.

“Before everything within the grand scheme of something like this, we’re fortunate as a result of she’s right here. She’s with us,” Tiffany mentioned. “These are the issues you consider when the vacations come. I take into consideration [Dominic’s] household.”

Mia worries folks don’t even bear in mind him — the 14-year-old child with curly hair who “wasn’t afraid of something,” Tiffany mentioned. He and Mia had an 8-minute lengthy secret handshake they’d do each time they met, Mia mentioned.

A man wears a shirt emblazoned with the name of a boy killed in the Saugus High shooting.

Folks collect at Central Park in Santa Clarita to recollect these killed and wounded within the Saugus Excessive Faculty taking pictures.

(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Instances)

He wore a SpongeBob T-shirt nearly day-after-day. The primary time he met Tiffany in a division retailer, he “shook my hand very firmly and mentioned, ‘I simply need you to know I’m Mia’s boyfriend,’ then ran off laughing,” Tiffany mentioned.

Mia cherished him and he’s gone, killed as they walked collectively, simply one other day till it wasn’t.

However as a lot as we mourn the lifeless, the residing matter too. Gun violence is a horrible, tragic second for many who die. It’s a lifetime of ache for many who stay.

Tiffany remembers the morning Mia was shot, not likely being concerned whilst she heard one thing was taking place at the highschool. She determined to drive over and examine. On the way in which, she acquired a textual content from a quantity she didn’t acknowledge.

“Hello mother, I don’t know in case you’ve heard, however there was a taking pictures. Inform Max to chew together with his mouth closed,” it learn. Max is Mia’s little brother, in first grade when the taking pictures occurred and an open-mouth eater on the dinner desk, a lot to his huge sister’s dismay.

Tiffany realized one thing was mistaken and referred to as the quantity. A lot of what occurred is a blur, however she remembers asking the one that answered if every part was OK, and being advised Mia had been shot. “Do you wish to discuss to her?” they requested.

Gun control activist Mia Tretta.

Gun management activist Mia Tretta.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Instances)

Mia sounded “as regular as may be,” Tiffany mentioned. “Thank God for shock and adrenaline. I really feel like, had she sounded in ache, I’d have crumbled.”

One way or the other Tiffany referred to as her husband, Sean, and so they arrived on the college at nearly the identical time, with Mia being wheeled out on a gurney. There was a helicopter journey to the trauma heart, and although the bullet missed a significant artery by millimeters, “we knew fairly rapidly that she was going to be OK,” she mentioned.

“However when you must inform a baby that their finest pal was killed, you immediately see the innocence drain from them,” she mentioned.

Mia nonetheless has bodily issues from being shot — she’ll have one other process in coming months. However the emotional restoration is tougher.

“For a very long time, I used to be very, very numb,” Mia mentioned. “Trauma is a curler coaster. It doesn’t finish and it’s not static.”

Tiffany felt the shock too and nonetheless does.

“You attempt to stay a bit of bit tougher, you attempt to love extra, you attempt to not maintain grudges on stuff you would have previously,” she mentioned. “As dad and mom you bought to maintain going. You bought to select up and maintain it collectively. You’ll disintegrate sooner or later when they’re married and have their very own youngsters. It’s powerful.”

A family gathers at a memorial outside Saugus High School in 2019.

A household gathers at a memorial to Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell outdoors Saugus Excessive Faculty in 2019.

(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Instances)

One of many hardest elements is how political shootings have turn into. In case your youngster is in a automotive accident, Tiffany factors out, the one response is sympathy and kindness.

“You say my youngster was shot at a college taking pictures, everyone has an opinion on that,” Tiffany mentioned. “It’s the one factor that’s polarized, and it’s actually unfair. You’re speaking about children’ lives and youngsters’ security.”

Mia has a service canine now, a golden retriever named Randy, who goes to high school together with her and may wake her up from nightmares. She has PTSD. Popping balloons startle her, and Max is aware of higher than to run up and scare her, as he appreciated to do earlier than the taking pictures.

However Mia additionally found one thing about her ache.

“I spotted actually early on that I had the identical consolation sitting in mattress crying as I did going out and attempting to vary one thing,” she mentioned.

Mia travels the nation talking on gun rights. Not way back, she was at the White Home for an occasion with President Biden. And she or he voted for the primary time just a few weeks in the past — all candidates she trusts to share her values. Not too long ago, after the varsity taking pictures in Uvalde, she held a walkout at Saugus Excessive. Within the conservative enclave of Santa Clarita, it wasn’t nicely acquired.

“Folks had been holding up Trump flags and throwing issues at us,” she mentioned. “It’s a whitewashing, type of attempting to faux this didn’t occur in ‘Awesometown,’” as one native neighborhood dubbed itself.

It’s Mia’s perseverance that provides me hope.

I’m pretty sure the so-called adults aren’t fixing America’s gun downside anytime quickly. Even in California, with a few of the strictest gun legal guidelines within the nation, we’re confronted with the stone wall of those that genuinely consider they are going to sometime want their weapons to overthrow our authorities, and any try to curb gun rights dangers that mangled notion of patriotism.

However the children have an opportunity.

“Era Z goes to do away with them,” Tiffany mentioned, talking of the politicians who consider their self-serving worship of the 2nd Modification is extra vital than our youngsters.

“I see it not simply with my daughter,” she mentioned. “I see it when she goes and meets with different teams of younger [activists]. They notice the numerous downside we’ve got with weapons on this county. I’ve lots of hope for them, and it’s unlucky that we’ve needed to burn all of it down for them to construct it again up.”

Mia doesn’t need her complete life to be about weapons. She’s 18 years previous and making use of to school. She desires of Stanford, and so they’d be fortunate to have her. And she or he and her mother are again to volunteering at Thanksgiving, this yr making meals for these residing in motels.

However Mia is on this combat to win it, similar to so a lot of her friends who “take no s—,” as Tiffany places it.

“These are change makers,” Mia says of different younger survivors she’s met.

“They’re preventing for the very same factor,” she mentioned, regardless of in the event that they deal with local weather change, reproductive rights or any of the opposite issues that appear so insurmountable and contentions — to “be secure and be completely satisfied and be cherished and never be scared.”

“It’s not an excessive amount of to ask,” she mentioned.

No, Mia, it’s not. I want we may win this combat for you, go away you with a greater world. Or a minimum of one the place massacres don’t come and go from our consciousness like thieves, stealing a little bit of our capacity to really feel every time.

However I’m grateful you’re not ready for us to catch up. And I’m grateful that for all you’ve misplaced, you haven’t given up on us.

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