St. Louisian Recalls Surviving Mass Shooting In Kirkwood

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KIRKWOOD, MO. (KTVI) – A St. Louis man may have a deep understanding of the emotions survivors of the Colorado movie theater killings are experiencing.  John Hessel said, "Why didn't he fire? Why am I alive?"

Hessel is an attorney and also represents the city of Kirkwood, Missouri.  On February 7, 2008 a gunman opened fire at the city council meeting.  When it was all over seven people including the gunman were dead.  Hessel said, "It's like reliving it all over again."

If survivors of the Colorado incident are anything like Hessel, he believes they are feeling all sorts of emotions including disbelief, shock and guilt that they survived.  No doubt they are having trouble sleeping, and when they do sleep their dreams are probably terrifying, "I've had the nightmare about that Kirkwood shooting thousands of time. It's funny every time I do something different I get killed in my dream and I read in this books that's natural, that's no uncommon."

He advises survivors to seek professional counseling, and talk to people.  He said it was about a year before he began to feel normal, "I think about it quite frequently. It's not all the time, but it's regularly."

At least once a year Hessel visits the memorial dedicated to the people killed in Kirkwood, “It’s my way of showing respect to the friends I have lost."

The killings changed his life.  He now lives by the motto: the last words he says to people may be the last words he ever says to them.  Hessel explains, "So if you're going to say something to someone, make sure it's with kindness."