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In their own words: Oxford High School victims and families testify about shooting's aftermath

Students hug at a memorial at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich., Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. Authorities say a 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at Oxford High School, killing four students and wounding seven other people on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya
Students hug at a memorial at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich. on Dec. 1, 2021, the day after a shooting that left four dead and seven wounded. On Friday in Oakland County Circuit Court, the shooter, Ethan Crumbley, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

On Friday, more than two dozen people got their first chance to speak in court about what happened to them on November 30, 2021. That’s the day a teenager at Oxford High School opened fire on his classmates, killing four of them: Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, and Justin Shilling.

Seven other people were wounded that day.

In Oakland County Circuit Court, Judge Kwamé Rowe sentenced Ethan Crumbley to life in prison with no chance of parole.

The statements people gave told the story of many more lasting wounds in the Oxford community.

This is a selection of their testimony from the sentencing hearing.

(Content warning: Some of the following testimony contains intense descriptions of the shooting.)

Kylie Ossege, one of the seven wounded. Ossege was a senior at Oxford High at the time of the shooting.

My name is Kylie Ossege. I have attended Oxford Community Schools for my entire life. I often look back at pictures of me and my parents in 2009, walking into my first day of kindergarten. I was so innocent with my Barbie backpack, my My Little Pony lunchbox. At the time, I didn't know what a school shooting was.

I was a senior at Oxford High School on November 30, 2021.

I ate lunch at the same table that I sat at every single day. I made TikToks with my friends in the hallways. Before my fifth-hour class, me and my dear friend, Riley Franz, and I were standing in the hallway socializing with our peers. All of a sudden, I thought a balloon popped. I turned and I fell right to the ground. I remember hearing screams. I saw running. But I couldn't run. I was already down.

Aiden Watson and his mother Linda Watson. Aiden was a 9th grader when he was wounded in the shooting.

Aiden: I was running so fast out of the school. I called my mom because I was scared and I wanted her to help me.

Linda: He was screaming, "Mom, I've been shot. Help me. There's a school shooter."

I didn't know exactly where he was in the school at the time, if the danger was over, or if he was even safe. At first I told him to hide, but then he told me he was running outside. It was snowy that day, so I told him to bury himself in the snow.

Steve St. Juliana, father of Hana St. Juliana

Hana was an absolutely beautiful and thoughtful person. She was always the first person to notice when someone has a problem and the first to go out of her way to offer help.

She was incredibly curious and talented. She continually tried new things.

Nicole Beausoleil, mother of Madisyn Baldwin

A few key things about Madisyn was her laughter, contagious smile, intelligence, passion, kindness, fearless drive, and determination.

She is a light when you need it most. When the world gets dark, she's the stars.

Buck Myre, father of Tate Myre

I'm sure you've heard about our peer-to-peer mentoring program we started: 42 Strong, the Tate Myre Foundation. We launched it after the tragedy, in honor of our Tater.

He was an amazing kid. He loved to give. He loved to serve.

Love is obviously absent from our family because there's no joy. When you have joy, it's easy to love.

So, me and my wife are trying to figure out how to save our marriage and how to save our family.

Jill Soave, mother of Justin Shilling

Justin was happy, humble, hardworking, grateful, stylish, funny, smart, loving, thoughtful, and empathic.

He will always be my little sweetheart.

Craig Shilling, father of Justin Shilling

I still find myself waiting up for him to get home from work so we can get a few minutes to chat, as it was often the only time we'd have that chance to.

It's unbearable to know that he's never going to walk through that door.

Riley Franz, one of the people wounded. Franz was a senior at Oxford High at the time of the shooting.

November 30 has altered my life in every single aspect. It has changed and molded the way I think, the way I feel, and the way I act.

I can no longer sleep without having flashbacks of a bullet entering one side of my neck and exiting the other. I feel limited on what I can do at 19 years old because of the thoughts running through my head. My entire existence has been consumed by fear and that I will once again have to experience the pain and the suffering that I felt on November 30.

I used to love attending school where I would learn and create connections with others. I now experience panic attacks nearly every day when I have to attend university. I can no longer sit in a classroom and focus and take notes, like many students around me. Now, when I sit at a school, I feel anxious, checking for all my exits, highly in tune with all movements inside and outside the classroom, flinching at every sound, and counting down the minutes until I feel that I can breathe again. I cannot remember what it's like to feel safe and secure in any space that I occupy. I often cancel plans because I fear leaving the comfort of my home and my family.

On the days that I can't get out of bed because I'm afraid when I'm sitting in a restaurant or classroom or even walking to my car, the unimaginable will happen again when a balloon pops, a car backfires, or people run past me. My thoughts have been consumed by fear while my body is constantly in survival mode. I mourn the life I once had. A life filled with opportunities and fearlessness. I feel that the structure my parents created was burned to the ground that day. Everything I had the privilege of not feeling or fearing is now my daily life.

I, Riley Franz, am a survivor of gun violence. I, Riley Franz, am a survivor of a terrible epidemic caused by a broken system. But I refuse to be known as a victim at the hands of an individual with no regard for others. His selfishness will not consume my identity. I am so much more than a victim. I am a daughter to the most amazing parents, Jeff and Brandy. I'm a sister to the most remarkable young woman I have ever met, Isabella. I am a friend, a classmate, a cousin, a granddaughter. But most importantly, I'm a person.

I deserved to be a child that day. No child should have to fear that their school will be next. Children should attend school focused on their studies, friends, aspirations, and dreams. No parent should have to worry that their child is unsafe at a place where they are supposed to learn and prosper. Students should no longer have to learn lockdown drills. Instead, we should work harder to create a system that prevents gun violence and prevents children's lives from being stripped away and leaving only pieces behind.

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Public's Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.
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