Almost two decades separate the traumatic experiences of Michelle Wheeler and Chad Williams, who both survived mass shootings. But as they shared their stories one evening last July, 20 years seemed to evaporate in the crisp Colorado air.
The similarities were too many to count.
The same gripping fear. The loss and devastation that followed. The lasting trauma and overwhelming grief. So many funerals and memorial services.
In the United States from 2000 to 2017 there were 250 active-shooter incidents, resulting in 799 deaths and more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the FBI. But the number of people left to deal with the lasting effects of gun violence is far more difficult to track.
The Rebels Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in 2012, seeks to help survivors and their families learn how to live with the deep-rooted trauma wrought by their experiences.
The group's mission has gained a renewed sense of urgency in the wake of three apparent suicides: the father of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, and two teenagers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas who died in March.
Williams and Wheeler met over the summer during the group’s annual gathering.