Abigail Zwerner still has bullet lodged in chest after being shot by student

Abigail Zwerner still has bullet lodged in chest after being shot by student

A Virginia elementary teacher says she is haunted by the look on the face of the 6-year-old student that shot her with his mom’s gun in January and still has a bullet lodged in her chest from the “shocking” incident.

Abigail Zwerner, 25, spoke for the first time about sustaining serious injuries at the hands of one of her first-grade students in a Tuesday interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today.”

“I remember him pointing the gun at me, I remember the look on his face, I remember the gun going off,” she recalled of the moment the child fired the weapon at at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News on Jan. 6.

“There’s some things that I’ll never forget. And I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me,” she added. “That’s something that I will never forget. It’s changed me. It’s changed my life.”

Abigail Zwerner.
Abigail Zwerner 25, was shot by her 6-year-old student on Jan. 6.

Zwerner said she believed she only survived because the bullet went through her hand before penetrating her chest and collapsing her lung.

Part of the bullet, she said, remains in her chest.

“I think it will always be there,” Zwerner said emotionally.

“At first it really shook me up…seeing an open wound on your body and remembering how you got it is pretty traumatizing,” she continued, as she recalled thinking she “had died” after escorting the rest of her students to safety.

Zwerner said she underwent another operation on her left hand to repair damage from when the bullet initially pierced the middle bone, damaging the thumb and index finger before entering her chest.

“It’s helpful now that they’ve scarred over.”

In the weeks after the shooting, it was revealed that school officials were warned by a teacher that the unnamed student had a gun in his backpack and was showing it to another student at recess.

Officials failed to act on the tip, and the principal of the school was ousted in the wake of the shooting.

The student had brought the 9mm gun into school and opened fire a day after smashing Zwerner’s phone, she told the outlet.

Willow Crawford, age 7, holds sign she made for Zwerner during a vigil gathering on Jan. 9.
Willow Crawford, age 7, holds sign she made for Zwerner during a vigil gathering on Jan. 9.
Mike Caudill New York Post

First responders on the scene after the shooting.
The unnamed 6-year-old will not face charges, state prosecutors said.

When asked if she felt administrators should have done more to prevent the incident, Zwerner — who is taking legal action against the district — nodded and said “yes.”

“There are multiple people responsible for those failures,” her attorney Diane Toscano told Guthrie.

She said there are days when she struggles to “get out of bed,” she tries to “stay positive” in the wake of her trauma.

“I’ve been doing okay. You know, it’s been challenging,” she said. “I’ve gone through a lot of obstacles and challenges.”

Her optimism, she said, has been buoyed by the outpouring of public support.

Abigail Zwerner.
Zwerner still has a piece of the bullet in her chest.

“I’m just so thankful,” Zwerner said of the messages.

“Their messages, their cards, their support has not gone unnoticed.”

Many were especially drawn to Zwerner’s story following reports of how she ushered the rest of her students to safety before stumbling to the office for help, where she ultimately collapsed from her injuries.

“My initial reaction was…your kids need to get out of here. This is not a safe classroom anymore. You need to get them out of here, and then you need to go find help for yourself,” she recalled of the chaotic moments after the shooting.

“I just wanted to get my babies out of there.”

Messages of support for teacher Abby Zwerner on the door of Richneck Elementary.
The public has responded to Zwerner’s injuries with an outpouring of support.

Richneck Elementary School.
School staff allegedly knew the student had a gun but failed to act on this knowledge the day Zwerner was shot.

Earlier this month, Virginia prosecutors announced that the 6-year-old shooter will not face charges, though his family could still be held responsible.

As for what justice would look like following her ordeal, Zwerner was quiet before saying “that’s a tough question to answer.”

Zwerner was also supported during the interview by her mother and twin sister, Hannah.

“She called me ‘mommy,’” Zwerner’s mother remembered of the moment she saw her daughter in the hospital after the shooting. 

“That’s when I knew this was real.”

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