A mom’s account of her daughter surviving the Santa Fe school shooting has gone viral
As we process the news of yet another tragic school shooting, a mom is telling the story of her daughter surviving the most recent massacre at an American school. In a heart-wrenching viral Facebook post, Deedra Van Ness describes the worst nightmare of any modern parent — in unflinching detail.
Van Ness’ daughter, Isabelle, was one of the students in the art classroom when the shooter opened fire. The mom wrote a Facebook note from her own point-of-view about how the day’s unspeakable events unfolded. It’s quickly gone viral, because in this age of school shootings happening all too often, so many of us can relate.
“As my daughter finally sleeps, I no longer can keep the tears from falling. We see / hear about these tragedies through a TV screen once removed. While we grieve with and for the families, we truly have no idea what they are experiencing,” she writes.
The mom describes a typical morning that Friday, where she dropped Isabelle at school, told her she loved her, and headed home to get ready for her own day.
Then, her phone rang.
Initially, Van Ness figured her teen forgot something for school, but when she answered, a nightmare began to unfold. “As I answer the phone, she is whispering and I can barely understand her. Then I hear her whisper….mom, they are shooting up the school, I’m hiding in a closet. I love you mom. In the background, I hear gunfire.”
She begged Isabelle to stay on the phone, but she said other kids who didn’t have phones needed hers to call their parents, and the call dropped. “I was frozen, standing there with no idea what to do next,” she writes.
Van Ness ran downstairs and began assembling her husband and their son Kam to try to figure out the next steps. “We make our way towards the school and are passed by no less than 30 emergency vehicles along the way. During this time, we are frantic and both of our phones are blowing up. All we can do is stare at them praying she calls us again.”
As the family approaches the school, traffic around the scene is stalled and many parents are getting out of their cars and rushing toward the building. At first, Van Ness’ family waits, knowing they won’t be let near the school, but as they finally grow too panicked and start walking, the phone rings — it’s Isabelle, and she’s safe.
The teen explains that she’s in a police car waiting to be interviewed as a witness. The police advised her to tell her family not to come to the school yet, so they’re forced to wait once more. The family is then put through plenty of confusion, being shuffled from one location to another in the hopes of being reunited with Isabelle. Her husband, Kenny, gets frustrated by the wait and the lack of information and while he’s trying to track Isabelle down, Van Ness is fielding phone calls. Finally, Kenny comes back — with Isabelle.
“Finally, I get to hold my baby as we both cry and I try not to notice the blood on her,” she writes.
The family ushers Isabelle away from waiting media and brings her home. The teen is crying and apologizing. Van Ness wonders what for, and her heart breaks when it becomes clear — her daughter was worried about having upset her family with her phone calls. “I can only close my eyes and think about this child who is still worrying about others after the traumatic experience she just experienced. I assure her that she did everything right and try to get her to go inside.” At this point, Van Ness notices there’s blood on her own foot. She doesn’t know how it got there.
As the family grapples with the awful events of the day and Isabelle struggles to calm down, Kam discovers his best friend is one of the kids who died.
Then, Isabelle finally tells her mother everything that happened that day — and it’s simply harrowing. As the gunman entered the art classroom and began shooting, there was panic and confusion resulting in Isabelle hiding in a closet with several of her peers. The gunman was taunting the kids hiding and began to shoot into the closet, hitting three of the eight kids in it. Two of them died instantly.
Isabelle and her classmates were forced to listen to the gunman continue his rampage, yelling “woo hoo” and firing more shots. He continued to taunt the surviving students in hiding until finally, the police arrive. Van Ness writes, “By this time, she has been laying on the floor for over 30 min next to her deceased classmates. They listen to the exchange between the gunman and the police, as they can hear him reloading his weapon. Finally, the gunman surrenders and police take him into custody.”
Once free from the scene, Isabelle boards a bus and the driver asks if she’s heard anything about her own daughter. The teen had seen the bus driver’s daughter on the floor of the classroom. Later, it would be confirmed that the driver’s daughter was among those who died.
As the afternoon goes on, Isabelle watches the television coverage, becoming upset that details are wrong and the people being interviewed weren’t there when it all happened like she was. She decides to accept an interview with The Washington Post where she’s able to tell her story. As the interview wraps, Van Ness realizes the blood is still on her foot.
That evening. Isabelle visits with friends from school. One hadn’t been there when the shooting happened and the other ran out and wasn’t near the shooting area. After 15 minutes, Isabelle wanted to leave. “As we get in the car, Isabelle tells me that she couldn’t breathe and had to leave. They felt like strangers to her, as they didn’t have the same experience.”
After arriving home, Isabelle says she wants to sleep with her mom that night. As Van Ness watches her daughter sleep, she thinks about how proud she is that the teen shared her phone with classmates, called the police, spoke to a reporter, and stayed strong until she was able to talk it all through with her parents and “transfer her burden” to them.
“So far, she’s sleeping peacefully,” Van Ness writes. “No tossing, turning… nothing I anticipated. But as she dreams, she knows that I’m sitting her watching over her and I hope that’s enough for her to find peace in her slumber.”
Van Ness recounts all that was lost that day. The bus driver’s daughter, two teachers Isaballe loved as well as some of her friends, Kam lost his best friend, the Van Ness family lost a cousin, a Pakistani family lost their daughter who was at the school as an exchange student. So much is lost.
Van Ness ends her account by noting, “And I noticed that I still haven’t washed the blood off my foot.”