Abigail Zwerner, the Virginia teacher who was seriously injured when police said a 6-year-old student deliberately shot her during class, says her recovery remains difficult.
Zwerner, who first spoke publicly in an interview aired Tuesday on the “TODAY” show, said she faces “obstacles and challenges” after multiple surgeries after being shot in the left hand and upper chest. Her occupational therapy appointments have also left her physically and mentally exhausted, she told “TODAY” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie.
“Some days are not so good days, when I can’t get out of bed. Some days are better than others, when I can get out of bed and make my appointments,” says Zwerner, 25, with her left hand bandaged after a recent fourth surgery to help a bone that was severely damaged.
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The physical scars are healing, she said, including a wound on the side of her body where doctors inserted a chest tube after her lung collapsed.
“But you know, for going through what I’ve been through, I’m trying to stay positive,” says Zwerner, a first grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. “You know, try to have a positive outlook on what happened and where my future is going.”
Zwerner was praised for her handling of the shooting, which led about 20 students to safety. She was in the hospital for almost two weeks.
She said in an interview with NBC News Monday that she still can’t fully use her left hand, making the simplest of tasks, such as making a fist, opening a water bottle and getting dressed, extremely difficult. She said her doctors are still not sure if she will be able to use her hand like before.
“Physiotherapy is not only physically exhausting, but mentally exhausting. I would have to move them once an hour all day long,” she said of her fingers, “I just manipulate them to get that blood flowing and to get that feeling.” to get.” movement back in hand.”
The Jan. 6 shooting raised concerns about potential security issues in kindergarten through fifth grade and in a school district that has been plagued by other incidents of gun violence at local schools in the past 18 months.
The law firm representing Zwerner plans to file a lawsuit in connection with the case within two weeks.
“I can tell you that this case has failed on multiple levels, and there were adults who held positions of authority who could have prevented this tragedy and did not,” said attorney Diane Toscano.
Toscano has said the boy who shot Zwerner had behavioral problems and a pattern of disturbing interactions with school staff and other students.
According to a letter of intent provided to the Newport News school board on Jan. 24, the boy received a day’s suspension for breaking Zwerner’s cell phone and returned the next day with a 9mm Taurus pistol that he used to shoot his teacher. in class while sitting at a reading table.
Three teachers had gone to school administration about the boy’s behavior and the suspicion he had a gun on campus, Toscano said. A source close to the incident told NBC News that Zwerner texted a loved one before she was injured, saying the boy was armed and school officials did nothing.
Following the shooting, the 6-year-old boy’s family said in a statement that the gun was “secured” in the home and that they were “always committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children.”
The family also said the boy has an acute disability and that after the shooting he received “the treatment he needed” under a court-ordered temporary detention in a medical facility.
The Newport News Police Department conducted interviews with school staff and students before turning the case over to the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney in February for possible criminal charges.
Police said the child’s mother legally purchased the gun he was using, but did not specify how he obtained it or whether it was safely stored, as the family claims.
Local prosecutor Howard Gwynn told NBC News this month that while a 6-year-old child could theoretically face criminal charges under Virginia law, he would not press charges against the student.