Voices: ‘I continue to fight,’ Oregon District survivor who ran from the scene says

Christina Huelsman lost her shoes running from Ned Pepper's during the Oregon District mass shooting. Now she is working for change.

When I reflect back on this past year, it has been pretty surreal. It was a complete whirlwind moving to a new city just two weeks after the shooting. It was such a feeling of loneliness when I first moved. Even though I had a great job to look forward to and had my incredible boyfriend Ethan there with me, I felt alone because I had just left the city I’ve lived in my entire life.

Oakwood graduate Christina Huelsman
Oakwood graduate Christina Huelsman

Credit: Amelia Robinson

Credit: Amelia Robinson

A city that was now grieving and healing together, and I was “alone” in a completely different state. Nobody in Milwaukee knew the pain I was carrying every day.

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The tragedy of the Oregon district shooting has reshaped my entire life. I’m still working through so much trauma and anxiety that night has instilled in me. Some days are better than others. There are days where I break down and have panic attacks in places like the grocery store and restaurants. Even just walks with my dogs can lead to a breakdown. Most recently hearing nonstop fireworks over the Fourth of July was an absolute nightmare for me. There are so many triggers that bring me back to that night.

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While the bad days come and go, the good days keep me going. Yes, it’s cliche, but I’ve truly never had such appreciation for the good in my life as I do now. It really put things in perspective.

I try my best every day to take any fear, anger or anxiety I have from that night and put it toward fighting for a change. Since the shooting, I have gotten very involved with the Moms Demand Action organization (related to Every Town for Gun Safety).

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I was recently given the leadership position of being our group’s survivor membership lead. It’s been incredible being a part of a group of people all working toward the common goal of implementing better gun safety among communities and fighting for laws that ensure more gun safety in this country. While the fight for these laws is slow, it would be a hell of a lot slower without people like us working toward the action we need to see.

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The mantra I have stuck by is, “Nothing changes if nothing changes,” which is why I continue to fight for these necessary changes every single day. I am thankful for every single person in my life who has been a part of helping me heal from this horrific night. I am thankful to have the opportunity to fight for change. And most importantly, I am thankful every day that my friends and I are still alive.

Dayton native Christina Huelsman was in the Oregon District the night of the mass shooting with friends. The 22-year-old Oakwood High School graduate fled Ned Peppers shortly after shots rang out. She now lives in Milwaukee, where she works for Kohl’s headquarters in their buying offices.