Columbine High School shooting survivor Amber Wright will present a book talk on her children’s book, It Gets Better, on Thursday evening, May 23, in the C.H. Booth Library meeting room. The program will run from 6:30 to 8 pm.
Ms Wright, an elementary school teacher and mother, witnessed the shootings in the library of her high school on April 20, 1999, in which 13 of her classmates and teachers died. She was just 17 years old and a senior at the school at that time.
It Gets Better is a book of resiliency, hope, and healing that grew out of feelings that resurfaced for Ms Wright when she heard about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 12/14.
“The idea [for the book] came to me a couple of days after the shootings at Sandy Hook School,” said Ms Wright in a phone interview with The Newtown Bee on Wednesday, May 15. “I thought about the PTSD I experienced after the shootings at Columbine. I took those basic experiences you go through with PTSD, survivor’s guilt, for instance, and tried to explain everything very simply,” she said of her book, which is intended to bring comfort to elementary aged students.
“I was thinking that if [the children of Sandy Hook School] had this book in their bedrooms and if it brought them a little comfort, that was my purpose in writing it,” Ms Wright said. “I graduated the year of the Columbine shootings and went away to college. There was no one for me to talk to. I wish that I had had someone to talk to who had gone through a similar experience,” she said, and she is hopeful that It Gets Better will offer that solace to young people processing events like 12/14. Published in March of this year, the book was created specifically for the children of Newtown, said Ms Wright, although she has since realized that it can be a useful tool for children experiencing any kind of trauma.
According to Liz Carlston, author of Surviving Columbine: How Faith Helps Us Heal When Tragedy Strikes, and also a Columbine High School survivor, “In simple, reassuring language, the book offers words of hope and consolation and addresses the difficult emotions related to post-traumatic stress.” Ms Carlston said that the book allows Ms Wright to give Sandy Hook and Newtown children a tool, “something they could hold in their hands, to help with their healing process.”
Ms Carlston assisted in compiling It Gets Better.
Through crowd-sourcing, Ms Wright is bringing 1,000 donated copies of the picture book, illustrated with photographs by Sarah Wood. Free copies of the book will be available for participants to bring home and share with the young ones in their lives.
“I realize one little picture book doesn’t help all of the healing. But I’m in a place where I can offer my services, now,” she said.
While the book is for children, the talk on May 23 is geared toward adults. Ms Wright is hopeful that first responders in Newtown will attend the book talk. “They are very welcome to come, and to talk with me,” she said.
Ms Wright has also been invited to visit privately with families of Sandy Hook School survivors.
Registration for the event is required and can be done at www.chboothlibrary.org or by calling the library at 203-426-4533.