PARKLAND (CBSMiami) — Kyle Laman still uses the same book bag he had on his back on February 14, 2018, as he dodged bullets on the third floor of the Freshman Building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“There’s actually a bullet hole in my book bag,” he explained
Laman says a round from an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle left a hole in a side pocket of his book bag. That round missed him as the bullets whizzed past him and slammed into the wall behind him. However, another round caught Kyle on his lower right leg and blew off part of his ankle. Kyle managed to run down three flights of stairs and across a football field where he found off duty Coral Springs police sergeant, Jeff Heinrich, who helped him.
So far, Kyle has had seven surgeries on his leg and expects to have more. He described the pain he felt after a recent surgery.
“When I woke up it felt like someone had a blade that was cutting my leg and was cutting that side and was grinding it, grinding it, grinding it and digging in it,” he said.
Despite that, Kyle is making strides getting through the physical pain. He is back doing some of the things he loves like playing paintball and riding motorbikes.
“I love being back to normal,” he said. “I got the okay from my doctor, he said, ‘Be a kid. Relax. Go have fun.’ So I was like, ‘Yes’!”
However, the emotional and mental scars are taking longer to heal.
“It could be a time, a smell, a sound, even the way something looks,” he said. “I literally switched out of a course because I legit couldn’t go in there. I started ditching the class. The first day I went in the class I had a panic attack. The room was so familiar.”
A constant reminder for him of the violence that day is the Freshman Building, which still sits on the campus.
“Even just to see the building, it’s just, sometimes I can hear gunshots in my head or I hear screaming. And it scares me,” he explained. “I’ll walk past the building, I passed by the building once and I could still hear screaming or gunshots going off and it scares me.”
Kyle struggles with memories of the moment he saw the shooter at the other end of the third floor hallway.
“If I get scared, if someone goes ‘Boo’ I go ‘Aaaahhh!’ And I’ll lock up cause that’s what it was during the shooting. He walked through the door and I didn’t expect it, I didn’t see it. All I heard was ‘boom’ and I got scared,” he said.
Now fire alarms at school frighten him. Kyle has a service dog named Bruce who helps calm him. He has turned to religion and is getting good grades in school even though he finds it much harder to focus on things. This once fearless kid now finds himself dealing with post-traumatic stress and other issues.
“Public places are hard to go,” he said. “Sometimes I stay home cause I feel bad for my family that’s going, like I don’t want to bring you down.”
He has also had to push through a fair amount of survivor’s guilt.
“I still kinda feel like bad that I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “Ever since the hospital I always feel like I couldn’t do anything. I never really expressed it too much but it was always in my head a little bit. I couldn’t really defend anyone.”
Kyle’s mom, Marie, says her son has changed.
“My kid is completely different and now I’m learning a new son,” she said.
She is an upbeat, gregarious person and after spending a few hours with the family, it is clear that the Laman’s are a close, loving and happy family. They laugh a lot and enjoy being together. They are working hard to bring Kyle back to the kid he was.
“I try to explain to him you can’t live like a victim,” Marie said. “You have to live like a survivor. You made it through this. You can make it through it anything because he thinks he’s gonna die. I’m like ‘You’ve already passed the hardest part.’ It’s getting him to understand that and trying to get him back to the old Kyle.”
But the Laman’s have a constant sense of gratitude knowing that Kyle could have easily been one of those who did not come home last February 14.
“There are other families that aren’t so lucky,” she said. “I can’t imagine what the other families are going through that lost their children. That affects me the most when I see them and they say, ‘How’s Kyle?’ and I just want to cry, not for my son, but for them.”
Kyle told CBS4 News he feels safer on the campus this year. His mother however would like to see metal detectors and additional safety measures.
“It’s been a year. There are no metal detectors. There is nothing new at the school except a couple of extra officers. But if you want to hop the fence and come over, you can still do that. The school has been good to us and the community’s been amazing to us. But I don’t think it’s Fort Knox,” Marie said.
Kyle is grateful for Heinrich and all the officers and paramedics who helped him on the day of the shooting and afterwards. He says there has been a constant outpouring of support from the community for him and his family. He knows he is lucky to be alive.
“All a miracle,” he said. “Everyone who survived and who got out alive are all lucky.”