It’s been three months since the Jan. 6 shooting at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. While instances like these have unfortunately increased in recent years, what made this one particularly shocking is that it was carried out by a 6-year-old child. This week, Abigail Zwerner, the educator wounded by the student, sat down with NBC to discuss the incident.
“I remember him pointing the gun at me, I remember the look on his face,” Abigail Zwerner told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in an interview that aired Tuesday, more than two months after the January 6 shooting at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News left her hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the hand and chest. “I remember the gun going off.”
Zwerner knew, she said, she had been shot – the bullet went through her left hand before getting lodged in her chest, where fragments of it remain – but her first thought was of the safety of her other students.
“I was terrified,” she said. “In that moment, my initial reaction was, ‘Your kids need to get out of here,’ you know? ‘This is not a safe classroom anymore.’ … I just wanted to get my babies out of there.”
After getting her students to safety, her memory blurs. Zwerner didn’t know her lung had collapsed, she said, and she struggled to breathe.
“I remember I went to the office, and I just passed out,” she said. “I thought I had died.”
Zwerner was released from the hospital last month, a hospital spokesperson confirmed. The teacher has undergone four surgeries since the shooting, NBC reported, most recently on her hand, which Zwerner still cannot fully use.
The bullet “went through my left hand and ruptured the middle bone as well as the index finger and the thumb,” Zwerner told NBC, before striking her in the chest.
“It could have been fatal,” she said. “We believe that by the bullet going through my hand first that it most likely saved my life.”
The boy who allegedly shot Zwerner will not be criminally charged, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn told CNN affiliate WTKR earlier this month.
The boy has an “acute disability” and was under a care plan that required a parent to attend school with him, though he was unaccompanied on the day of the shooting, his family has said in a statement. “We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives,” the statement read.
Asked about her recovery, Zwerner said, “I’ve been doing OK. It’s been challenging.”
“Some days are not-so-good days where I can’t get up out of bed,” she told NBC. “Some days are better than others where I’m able to get out of bed and make it to my appointments. But from going through what I’ve gone through, I try to stay positive.”
The outpouring of support from her family and complete strangers is “hard to comprehend sometimes,” she said, but is deeply appreciated and “truly inspiring.”
“It helps me remember to take each day as they come,” she said, “that each day is special.”
EXCLUSIVE: The Virginia teacher shot by a 6-year-old, Abigail Zwerner, opened up to @SavannahGuthrie about what she remembers about that day: “In that moment, my initial reaction was ‘your kids need to get out of here. This is not a safe classroom anymore.’” pic.twitter.com/K5hGxO3keI
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 21, 2023