The visibly shaken family of the youngest Umpqua Community College shooting victim, Cheyeanne Fitzgerald, spoke with reporters about the 16-year-old’s injuries and what she saw inside the classroom as a gunman opened fire.
Cheyeanne’s mother, Bonnie Schaan, said that her daughter had completed her high school degree early and was on her fourth day of community college classes, studying to be a nurse, when the gunman struck. She and her friend and fellow shooting victim, Ana Boylan, were enrolled in the Writing 115 course that officials have now confirmed that shooter Chris Harper-Mercer was also taking.
Both laid down and pretended to be dead when shooter Harper-Mercer began firing, Schaan said. Cheyeanne was struck once below her shoulder, and the bullet nicked her lung before becoming lodged in her kidney, which had to be removed, the family says. Cheyeanne remains in critical condition in the ICU at Mercy Medical Center, officials said.
“She’s having some tough times and is moving slow,” Schaan said. “But I know my daughter is strong and can get through this.”
Schaan said her daughter hasn’t spoken much of the incident itself yet, but is clearly affected by it – even a chair scraping on the floor causes her to jump.
“She mentioned to me all the blood,” she said, tearing up. “I don’t want my daughter to be scared of a noise.”
Inside the classroom, Schaan said Harper-Mercer asked her what her religion was, but she did not answer him. She said her daughter also said that the shooter handed an envelope to a male student, telling him he would be the lucky one to deliver the messages. (This story was similar to what Stephanie Salas, the mother of victim Rand McGowan, previously told PEOPLE.)
After learning about the shooting, Shann said she started texting and calling her daughter, and when she didn’t get an answer, she skipped heading to the community college and went straight to Mercy Medical Center. “There’s no other word, mother’s intuition,” she said.
Joined by Cheyeanne’s aunt, Colleen Fitzgerald, and cousins, Kylie and Courtney, Schaan said she expects her daughter’s recovery to be long. The family directed people to Cheyeanne’s GoFundMe page for those who want to support her as she faces rehabilitation.
“We’re thankful for the support,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re blessed beyond belief that Cheyeanne is here today.”
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