Route 91 Survivor Discusses Trauma of Mass Shootings

SACRAMENTO -- It's been almost 18 months since a deadly spray of bullets assaulted the crowd gathered for the Route 91 music festival in Vegas.

"I just remember this 'pop pop pop pop pop,'" Lisa Fine said tearfully, sitting at her dining table in Rocklin.

Fine was one of the thousands forced to run for their lives.

"To crawl through other people's blood," she said.

"The bullets were six inches from my head and my friend's head and we thought for sure we were not gonna make it."

But they did.

And since then Fine has spent most of her time developing the Route 91 Strong organization, providing an ear to and raising money for victims of mass shootings who can't work or function in other ways because of the trauma they've suffered.

So far she and her 12-person, multi-state board have collected $200,000 donated dollars and written checks to 100 families.

The work is cathartic, but also holds open her own wounds...as does word of survivors of the Parkland shooting and now the father of a victim from Sandy Hook committing suicide.

"And I'm terrified of how many others might try something as drastic as suicide. And it does cross my mind and I wish I could say it doesn't, but some days I don't know how to see past that pain," Fine said. "It is a dark, dark place to be and when you feel like you want to crawl out of your skin. You want to do anything to make that stop."

As a therapist, it's Charise Spencer's job to stop those thoughts in a way that preserves life.

"I think one of the things we need to know about suicide is that it's not necessarily a lack of desire to live so much as I've reached my coping capacity for living with these horrible feelings that I'm having," said Spencer.

She treats patients at Heartstrings counseling center in Loomis.

She says it's critical for the survivor and their loved ones to watch for signs that emotions tied to trauma are building, like withdrawal from normal activity, sleep disruption and noise sensitivity.

"You might see things like hyper-vigilance, watching what's happening around me to make sure I'm safe and something bad isn't about to happen, " she said.

All indicators of those are that someone may need more help than they've been getting.

"Just hold on, hold on, hold on," encourages Fine.

The effects of trauma can come in waves so you or your loved one may be coping fine for months - or years - and then suddenly feel very vulnerable.

If you are having thoughts of harming yourself you can get help 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, texting 741-741 or visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Heartstrings Counseling Center in Loomis is offering a free session anyone struggling. The number there is 916-676-7405.

The Route 91 Strong organization is trying to grow into a nationwide force and be able to help more victims of trauma as mass shootings continue to happen.

If you'd like to help with those efforts, you can donate by logging on to route91strong.org.

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