Abbotsford high school students return for 1st time after attack
'Getting back into that building this morning is the most important thing kids can do,' says trauma expert
Students at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, located east of Vancouver, will be back at school this morning for the first time since a deadly attack there last week.
Thirteen-year-old Letisha Reimer was killed and her 14-year-old friend injured Tuesday in what police have described as a random attack.
Trauma expert Cheri Lovre, director of the Crisis Management Institute in Oregon, has worked with survivors after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, and has been guiding efforts to help Abbotsford students return to school.
"Getting back into that building this morning is the most important thing kids can do," she told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's The Early Edition.
In anticipation, the school held a special event Friday night, where students re-entered the building for the first time, accompanied by teachers and parents.
"It was a wonderful thing to watch what happened when the students went into the hallways of the schools and re-entered the rotunda," she said.
"The beginning of that time was so sombre, but within half and hour, the kids were really taking their space back. There was ordinary teen behaviour and it wasn't all about tears anymore."
Gr. 12 student Brandon Dubois says he feels anxious about coming back after what happened here last week. <a href="https://t.co/7ZXPQKDbpy">pic.twitter.com/7ZXPQKDbpy</a>—@FarrahMerali
Today is a shortened day for students with 30 to 40 minute class periods. The school district has said support will be available for both students and staff.
Brandon Dubois, a Grade 12 student, is starting his day in the same classroom he was in Tuesday when the lock down started.
"It feels weird, it puts us back into what happened on Tuesday," he said, adding it will take a long time to get back to feeling normal again.
Lovre said it will be a gradual process getting back into academics.
"Trauma affects memory and it affects our ability to concentrate. So they may not know that concept tomorrow."
She said trauma could linger in different ways — for example, students might feel anxiety whenever they hear a police siren, or have nightmares or flashbacks.
"We know that many, many students have been crawling into bed with their parents, even 17,18-year-old kids are crawling in bed with mom and dad at two in the morning when they wake up."
Jima Kiir is a grade 11 student. He says it's hard to come back because it feels like something is missing. <a href="https://t.co/7h9DpXyO5N">pic.twitter.com/7h9DpXyO5N</a>—@FarrahMerali
Students will also need support over the long-haul, Lovre said.
"When a traumatic event happens, we have maybe four to six weeks of resilience," she said. "But remember that there's just the ongoing stress."
Lovre recommended eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and seeking help, as well as keeping the upcoming holiday season low-key.
However, these recommendations are equally important for parents and staff, she added.
"Kids only get as well as the adults around us. While what we want to do is focus on the youth and everything around them, they can only get as well as the staff and their parents."
Also this morning, 21-year-old Gabriel Brandon Klein is scheduled to appear in court to face charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the attack.
To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Trauma expert Cheri Lovre helps Abbotsford students head back to school