Shooting like deja vu for Noblesville womanJune 7, 2018
By OLIVIA INGLE
NOBLESVILLE — When an announcement came over the intercom at Noblesville West Middle School on the morning of May 25 saying it was not a drill and that there was an active shooter in the building, Jasper native Shelly (Seifert) Alexander said a wave overtook her. A wave of panic.
Alexander, an assistant to special education students at the school, had been in a similar situation nearly eight months before in Las Vegas when a gunman rained bullets on country music festival attendees, killing 58 and injuring hundreds from his Las Vegas hotel room. That time, Alexander was in a taxi cab, caught in the bullets’ path.
“I have never been so scared in my entire life, and I truly thought that was the end,” Alexander wrote in a letter to The Herald in October. “I cried in hysterics and kept my head covered until I was home (at the hotel).”
She wasn’t injured in Las Vegas, but the experience will stick with her for the rest of her life.
Fast forward to May 25 at Noblesville West Middle School when a 13-year-old student excused himself from class, returned with two handguns and opened fire, shooting seventh-grade science teacher Jason Seaman and 13-year-old Ella Whistler. Whistler was shot seven times and remains hospitalized at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis with a long recovery ahead of her. Seaman was shot three times and was released from the hospital a day after the shooting. He’s been credited with helping to stop the attack.
Shortly after 9 a.m. on the day of the shooting, Alexander was in class at that same school (her classroom was on a separate floor than Seaman’s) when she heard a commotion coming from somewhere in the school. Her immediate thought was panic, which has been her typical response since her experience in Las Vegas.
“I tried to make sense of it,” the 2004 Jasper High School graduate said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I think since Vegas (when) there’s been fireworks or balloons popping, there’s been a lot of noise triggers for me. I have to make reality of it. I have to make up, ‘Oh, it’s just balloons. It’s just fireworks.’ I have to make truth to it. So, when I heard what I heard, I was just like, ‘Oh, it’s just kids at the end of the year.’”
But then came the announcement and more panic.
“But I knew as a leader in the building, I had to turn that to purpose,” Alexander said. “I had to turn my pain and worry into motion, basically. I had to protect.”
Alexander and her students sheltered inside their locked classroom and when it was finally safe to exit, they ran.
While comforting students outside, Alexander had to do something she also had to do nearly eight months prior — call her husband, Jeff, and her mother and tell them there had been a shooting. “That was very emotional,” she said. “That was very hard to do.”
She remembers hiding her face from her students because she was panicked and crying and didn’t want them to see her like that.
The incident brought back memories and feelings from Las Vegas, things she’s still working through.
She’s been attending counseling and everyday life has been challenging.
“For me, in Vegas, I felt very alone,” she said. “I felt like what I was experiencing was very odd and crazy. It was like my new normal. I couldn’t’ get used to it. And I didn’t have anybody that fully had compassion for it because they didn’t experience it with me. But with this (Noblesville) ... we’re all going through it together.”
She never thought she would find herself in another shooting situation. She had certainly worried about it, but never thought it would actually happen.
Since Las Vegas, she’s more aware of her surroundings and exit strategies. She’s aware of crowds and what people are wearing. “If they (people) kind of just seem off to me,” she said.
She added: “It’s been a struggle to live in fear, or be fearful, and still put myself out there. I’ve just been trying to heal and just do everything in my power to get the old me back.”
She’s confident some form of her former self will return.
It’s important for her, and others who have had similar experiences, to talk about what happened and find their own ways of healing and stick to them, Alexander said. She’s written down what happened to her both in Las Vegas and in Noblesville, as that helps her process it.
“There’s yoga, there’s creating music, just finding a way,” she said. “I have calming oils that I will just breathe in deeply before bed. I’ve tried everything and I’m willing to do everything.”
She believes her role now is to help everyone else “and let them know some of the different avenues that are taken for self care.”
“There’s been times where I didn’t think I needed a counselor or I didn’t want to go to my appointment, but then always afterward it was such a relief and I was so glad that I went,” Alexander said. “I think my job is to make sure the staff knows there is help out there.”
When she looks back on the shooting at the Noblesville middle school, she credits the emergency training she and fellow educators received to saving lives. She’s also amazed by the outpouring of support for the school.
A senior at Noblesville High School started a GoFundMe page for Seaman the evening of May 25, hoping to raise $100,000 for the teacher-hailed-a-hero’s medical bills. As of this morning, the GoFundMe had surpassed the goal by more then $5,000. A GoFundMe page set up May 25 for Whistler has raised nearly $110,000 for the Noblesville teen.
“The community deserves all the press about everything because this community has been so responsive with fundraisers and just making sure Ella and Jason are well taken care of,” Alexander said.
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