Valeen Schnurr was one of two girls who were wounded by a shotgun blast and lived during the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in April. She and a friend, Cassie Bunell, had their faith in God challenged by two gunmen and were shot at near point-blank range. Cassie was mortally wounded and died instantly. Valeen was seriously wounded but lived. Some say her story is a miracle. Her mother, Sherri Schnurr, spoke with Register Radio correspondent Rich Rinaldi.
Rinaldi: When did you first hear of the tragic events at Columbine?
Schnurr: I was at work and a good friend called and said that there was a gunman at Columbine High School. I was getting close to coming home from work that day. I work part time in a Christian office. I wasn't too upset at that point — I thought it was maybe, you know, two kids fighting over a girl because that had their prom that weekend. Then, shortly after she had gotten off the phone I heard that some children had been wounded. At that point I started realizing my daughter Val, being a peer counselor, and always trying to be helpful to the other students, may have been in a situation where she could have been in danger trying to help people out.
Did you try to get in touch with Val?
I wanted to get home to be there for Val. I knew that she would be totally upset by the whole situation, so I called and left a message on our recorder at home and said, “Val, I'm on my way home I want you to sit on the sofa in the living room and stay right there and I will be home in five minutes.” I came driving down the highway basically freaking out. You know, everybody drives so slow when you're in such a hurry.
I basically hoped and prayed that I would have her little white car in the driveway when I pulled down my street — and it wasn't there. So I got home and I got in the house and some people from the bank that she works at, First Bank, had called and were worried about Val. I turned on the news and I saw the major catastrophe going on. I got a phone call from my office and they said that Val had been wounded and taken to Swedish Hospital.
Did they hear that from the news?
No. They heard that from Val directly. She gave them my work phone number and the hospital called my workplace.
That announcement must have been horrendous.
It was. [I felt] panic, yet hopeful that when I got to the emergency room she would just have a scratch on her arm or that she had been helping somebody who had been taken to the hospital and they were both kind of just scratched up.
You didn't know the full impact at this point.
No, No. I was very shaken, and my good friend Bailey came and picked me up and took me to the hospital and in that emergency room when I got there they did not know anything. Nobody would give me any information and when they finally did, they said she was in surgery. At that point I was freaking out trying to find out what was wrong, and then the anesthesiologist had come in and told me that she had been shot nine times.
Your heart breaks. You know you just can't fathom what's going on.
Did they tell you what happened?
She has told me. She was in the library and she told me they had a shotgun, a sawed-off one. It wasn't as long as a normal one was, and so that is what she was shot with. There were also pipe bombs going off….
She was shot at least nine times. We believe that the doctors are having a hard time figuring it out because there are enter and exit wounds. She left the hospital with four bullets in her abdomen, two of which have come out on Friday. We had to have them removed because they came towards the surface and they were very painful and one was infected.
There was a faith connection. Can you tell us about the shooting itself? Some say she said she believed in God.
She was in the library at one of the tables studying with some of her friends. One of them was Loren Townsend. At that time, they heard explosions and gunshots coming from the cafeteria and a teacher ran in and basically screamed for the kids to get under the table, so she and her friends huddled under one of the tables towards the entrance of the library and basically waited.
The gunman came in and walked past the area that the girls were at, Val and her friends, and went in further into the library.
At that time she believed they threw some pipe bombs, 'cause the books and things were flying off the shelves, there were gunshots with some of the victims being killed, which at that point sent the girls into hysterics and they started screaming which drew the gunmen's attention back to them and they came back to that table.
Val basically had been hit at that point and fell forward out from under the table and was holding herself and was saying, “Oh my God, Oh my God.” And they asked her if she believed in God.
At that point they were reloading their gun and she was half-scared to say, “Yes, I do believe in God,” but afraid that she was dying and would not want to say no.
She said, “Yes, I believe in God.”
And they said, “Why?”
She said, “Because I do, and because my mom and dad have taught me.” And she looked down at her self and she was gushing blood.
At that point she said, “I think I'm dying,” and she crawled back under the table to be with her friend Loren and her other friends.
The gunman, for whatever reason, turned and left. Whether they thought she truly was dying and left her alone, we don't know.
That must have been traumatic. What did she do next?
Val had the sense enough to grab a sweat shirt that had been tied around her waist and push it against her stomach to help stop the bleeding and she also knew that if she went to sleep she would not make it.
And so she kept praying to God that God would help keep her awake. She tried very hard to wake her friend Loren up. She said, “I rubbed her face and I rubbed her hand and I kept asking Loren to wake up, that we had to go.”
She says, “Mommy, I tried so hard but she wouldn't wake up and I felt like I was going to pass out and I knew I had to leave.”
That was Loren Townsend. Loren did not make it; she died. That has been a difficult thing for Val. She said, “If I could have carried her I would have, but I was so weak.”
How is Val handling all of this?
She is a very strong girl and her faith is very strong. I don't even think she realized just how strong it really was until this incident.
I know that ourselves have been praying and have been so overwhelmed by the outpouring of the whole world and the prayers and love that they have shown not only us but the other families as well.
Is this a miracle?
That is basically what we have called it. Many of the doctors, the EMTs, the police department have all said it is a miracle. She was hit, and nothing had hit any vital organs.
They opened her up and expected to see damage due to the amount of blood loss, and everything was OK, and it was like nothing had hit anything vital.
We know that the Lord was looking out for her, and we know that God has a special plan for her. We don't know for sure what it is yet.