CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Gun violence victim to activist. A survivor of the Fountain Square shooing is now dedicating her life to prevent violence.
On September 6th, 2018, a gunman opened fire inside the Fifth Third Center. Whitney Austin was shot a dozen times.
The gunman was later killed by police.
“It was like today. A beautiful, sunny day. I thought I was driving up to Cincinnati just to check into work and instead I walked into a mass shooting,” Whitney Austin said.
Austin reflects on a day that changed her life’s direction.
“I have a lot of really vivid memories still from that day. How I felt the moment I was shot the painful sensation running through my body,” Austin said. “All of that is still really vivid. Also the thoughts thinking that I would never see my two small children again, my husband again and also just the terror and fear of thinking through how to survive. What can I do to survive?”
Twelve bullets hit Austin’s body. She says what she remembers most is surviving.
“I had to think through what's my best method of survival, and I tried multiple things, I tried to get up, I wasn't strong enough to do that, I looked out on the square there wasn't anyone to save me, I even tried to call 911 but my arm was too badly damaged to even use it, and when I did that was when I got shot the second time, so basically all I can do is play dead. And that's what I did,” Austin said.
The bullets caused a broken rib, bruised lung and a fractured right arm.
Three years later, Austin still feels the aftermath.
“Oh yeah, there are weird things. My left hand is numb so, like, my husband will go to grab my hand and I'll say don't do that grab the other hand, my right arm doesn't work as well as it used to, but in the grand scheme of things, 12 bullets and this is what I'm left with,” Austin said. “It's really hard to describe I think unless you've gone through it, it was painful. It was scary, but I think that I did well in it because I concentrated on living, and so when I look back now, those really aren't the memories that I have. I always talk about gratitude and how lucky I am to have survived.”
Despite the physical and emotional toll this shooting left on Austin’s life, “I'm just grateful. Again, twelve bullets. It's unheard of. It's impossible but yet that's my life and I’m here and that's why I do the work of Whitney Strong,” Austin said.
Austin says Whitney Strong is her way of paying forward the gift of life.
“We came together almost three years ago and said we wanted to approach this issue differently. We wanted to pull everyone together to help reduce gun violence, not end gun ownership,” Austin said.
The organization focuses on reducing gun violence through education, legislation, and research.
“This should not be happening in our great country, and I believe we can come together and we can stop it, we just have to have the right messenger, and I think that's who we are as an organization,” Austin said.
Whitney Strong will be holding its annual gala, ‘A night for life’ Saturday, September 25th at Waypoint Aviation at Lunkin Airport.
The event will highlight the stories of gun violence survivors.
Tickets are now available, click here for information.