Fattal: What were you all criticized for?
Martin: We were [told we were] bullies, that our perpetrators shot up the school because they were bullied. That has since been debunked. There are people that believe that [these shooters] finally stood up for themselves and they did the right thing by lashing out and taking control of the situation. It’s not something that I can understand. They’re idolized.
Fattal: When did you start thinking about what would become The Rebels Project?
Martin: I turned 18 two days after the [Columbine] shooting. But I didn't identify necessarily as a survivor at that point. I'm not going to say that that term is new, but I think it takes a while for people to own that label. After getting shut down so many times, of people saying “why are you still feeling this way, or not adjusting?” For example, the things that we were talking about or studying in college, it was like, “Oh, well, sorry, that sucks. You have to do this or you're going to fail the class.” I did fail the class. I failed English class twice.
Fattal: Because you were studying issues related to gun violence?
Martin: One was a research paper on school violence or gun violence. I did go up to my professor afterward and said “Hey, I can't write this, I went to Columbine.” And it was like, well, “This is the paper and you have to write it or you're going to fail.” So I did.
Fattal: Do you think conversations around survivors’ trauma have changed since then?
Martin: Yes and no. My work with The Rebels Project started after the Aurora theater shooting, where me and other survivors got to the point where we were just so sick of feeling re-victimized, and really helpless to help people who are just embarking on this journey that doesn’t end. We are a nonprofit, so we raise funds to help survivors, and [we have to] to convince people that this is needed. It’s a struggle. For us, I would wager it started after three months—that pressure to get over it, and just move on.
At the beginning you’re putting that pressure on yourself, because you do just want to move on, at least from my perspective. I can't speak for all survivors, but I did just want to move on and get back to normal. But you can’t. These are things that will impact you for the rest of your life and will affect you.
Fattal: Is it frustrating for you or the survivors you work with to think about the shootings that were forgotten or haven’t received quite as much national attention as the Parkland shooting?
Martin: I have had several conversations [with the survivors I work with] surrounding the forgotten shootings, in the wake of Florida. I know it’s frustrating for me, so I can only imagine being sort of fresh in that. [Parkland] put Columbine in the highlight again because of the similarities. But the Heath High School shooting, for example, was in 1997, and Columbine was in 1999, so Columbine overshadowed them, and then I remember hearing about Virginia Tech. I was worried that Columbine wouldn’t be remembered anymore. It was still a big part of me.