Virginia Tech survivor Lisa Hamp shares story of recovery
Eleven years after the Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 people dead, survivor Lisa Hamp is sharing her long journey to recovery. It took her almost ten years to realize that she had not dealt with the trauma of that horrifying day.
And while her real journey to recovery started only two years ago, today Lisa is a married and a mother of two young girls. She speaks about her experience at workplace violence prevention training events, conferences, and schools.
Recently, she was a guest speaker at Broward College during Campus Safety Awareness Month in September.
An uninjured survivor
On April 16, 2007, Lisa Hamp was in classroom 205 of Norris Hall at Virginia Tech with eight other students and a teaching assistant. While that room was targeted by the shooter, no one was physically hurt because they managed to successfully block him from entering.
Although there were resources available to them as survivors, they soon realized they would not be treated the same. According to Lisa, the university didn’t acknowledge their traumatic experience because they were not physically hurt. When the school organized a ceremony to mark the tenth-year anniversary of the shooting, Lisa learned that they would only accommodate injured survivors at the event. She penned an open letter to the school hoping they would change their position but that didn’t work.
From finding financial solutions for her and other classmates in 205 who wanted to attend the event, Lisa soon became an advocate for uninjured survivors. She shares her ordeal of masking the pain and how the experience changed the way she saw the world. For her and many others, the emotional consequences of the event are as harmful as physical injuries.
How can we prepare ourselves?
Lisa says communities, schools, and workplaces should have a comprehensive plan that includes training, education, and infrastructure in the event of an active shooter. She explains that when the shooting at Virginia Tech happened, there was no plan of action to deal with the emergency or its aftermath. The classrooms had no locks, there was no emergency plan or any additional measure that could have helped victims. A few years after the incident, in 2011, the university was fined by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to issue a prompt emergency warning after the first shooting in the apartment building.
But, the institution’s preparedness is one thing, Lisa believes every person should also have a plan of action.
“As individuals, the best way to prepare ourselves in case of an emergency is when you’re getting safety training in any situation, whether it be on a plane, at school, that you are aware and pay attention to what they are teaching you,” says Lisa.
Journey to recovery
After almost a decade of denial and three different counselors, Lisa realized that she needed to deal with the emotional scars of the shooting to be able to begin her healing process.
Talking from her own experience she shares that “if there’s a little voice inside your head or somewhere deep down in your gut that is telling you ‘something is wrong’ or ‘I should talk to someone’, listen to it because the sooner, the better.”
“Injured or not, recognize that you need resources and you were impacted by what happened to you, that it was traumatic, don’t minimize it,” she adds.
Broward College will conduct a self-led drill for the college community to practice how to shelter in place on October 15 at 11 a.m.
Read more about preparedness training and what to do in case of an active shooter situation here.