Brandy Kraft and Dylan Mittelsted have a few things in common. They’re both 17 years old, work as cashiers at Arlan’s market, and now they both share a trauma teenagers should never experience.
“As soon as I get to work it’s head to the restroom bawl my eyes out until I’m ready to put on the work face and make people smile,” a stone-faced Mittelsted said, trying hard to contain his emotions.
At the next register, Brandy Kraft tries to smile at the customers, but it has not been easy because she knew some of the 10 victims, killed in the shooting.
“It’s really scary to be in a community where you feel safe and then all that’s taken away from you just in the blink of an eye. A lot of my friends, very close friends and some of my Girl Scout friends were killed,” Kraft said.
Mittelsted said he needed to come to work the day after the mass shooting at his high school in Santa Fe, Texas.
“At this point I need to distract myself from it all because there are people who got hurt, people that died. I wasn’t one of them so I should be grateful for the life that I live and not curl up in my bed and think ‘what if,’” he said.
WATCH: Santa Fe Students Cope in Wake of High School Mass Shooting
Not a fire alarm
He recounted what happened Friday morning when he heard the fire alarm. He and his friends at first thought it was a fire drill.
“Once we got out those doors, the teachers were screaming ‘run.’ We started running across the road. We knew it wasn’t a fire,” he said.
Mittelsted said surviving a school shooting is finally sinking in, because the day it happened he was only thinking of the safety of his brother and girlfriend.
“The way it’s affecting me now is, I don’t know how I’m feeling. It feels like I’m somewhat numb,” he said. “Other times I hear a siren when there is nothing in the background. It’s frightening really.”
Make a difference, raise awareness
Kraft knew the accused shooter, 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis, who is now in jail, charged with capital murder and aggravated assault of a peace officer.
“What Dimitri did was not right,” she said. “I still can’t even imagine him doing this even though that he did it. It still feels like a big nightmare. He was always the laid-back, quiet one, you know, kind of kept to himself in class. He wouldn’t raise his hand for questions or anything. He’d do his work. He’d get things done, but he’d always kept to himself,” Kraft said.
Feeling helpless, Kraft wants to make a difference and raise awareness about school shootings. She said there should be better gun laws.
“See I’m not from Texas. I’m actually from North Dakota, and when I first came here nine years ago I could see that everybody loved their guns, and I respected that. It’s for their safety. But when somebody abuses that, I feel unsafe because you never know. A customer can come in and they have a hidden handgun. You never know. I came to work today because I know this is kind of tough to say but life does go on,” she said.
Kraft and Mittelsted are coping with the trauma in different ways.
“I try to look on the positive side. I try and smile every single day just to brighten my mood maybe brighten somebody else’s day. I try to say how’s your day? Are you OK?” Kraft said.
“Time. Time is the only thing that’s going to help me right now,” Mittelsted said.