The plight of survivors of shootings in the United States

It is enough for him to close his eyes, and suddenly, Norman Casiano sees himself on the floor of the toilet, two bullets in the body, terrified. The evening at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was quietly coming to an end on June 12, 2016, when gunfire broke out. The 26-year-old immediately understood the danger and sought shelter. Refugee in the toilet, he saw the gunman burst into it.

The pleas of the trapped youth did nothing. The shooting resumed. One bullet reached his back, another his right leg, severing the sciatic nerve. A body collapsed in front of him. "I will not go into details, but I still have the taste of blood in my mouth, I remember the smell of bullets, I can see the pile of wounded bodies. " Forty-nine people died and fifty-three others were injured during the shooting at this gay North Florida nightclub. Norman lost two of his friends there.

A life forever changed

This day of September, during our exchange conducted by screen interposed, the young man is alert, voluble. His words are chosen. His hands with freshly painted pink nails twirl, a two-day beard emphasizes the oval of the face. He is in a happy mood: he flies away that same evening to Puerto Rico for one of his many refuges stays with cousins, far from his everyday life. The day before, the scheduled interview had been cut short. A bad day, "Psychologically speaking".

Top, after the massacre at Columbine High School, Colorado, in 1999. Downstairs, after that of the Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in 2019. Camille Durand / M The World magazine from images of David Handschuh / NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images (x2); Calla Kessler / New York Times / Redux / REA

On his own, Norman Casiano joined three years ago the strangest of families, those hundreds of thousands of Americans who experienced the unthinkable in a country in peace. One day, in a classroom, a movie theater, a place of worship, a parking lot, a supermarket, a nightclub or office, their path crossed that of a gunman. Injured by bullets, direct or indirect witnesses to a shooting, these "survivors", as the English term survivors have seen, in a few seconds, their lives forever changed.

Armed violence costs nearly 40,000 people a year in the United States, mostly through suicide. The victims of mass shootings account for only 1% of these deaths, but their impact on society is incommensurable. According to a survey of Washington Post, since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 (15 dead, including the two killers), 130 children have been killed in their school, but more than 187,000 students have been exposed to school shootings. This figure gives an idea of ​​the collateral damage caused by weapons in a society which, after each tragedy, hesitates between fatalism and anger, but generally pays limited attention to the psychological or financial support of the victims.


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