GREENVILLE — West Liberty-Salem High School shooting survivor Logan Cole spoke to a congregation at East Main Church of Christ on Sunday evening.
Cole, now a senior at West Liberty-Salem in Champaign County, appeared with his parents at the event, where he discussed the shooting, his ongoing recovery, and the lessons he feels he has learned from the ordeal.
The shooting took place on January 20. Cole was preparing to leave, along with other students, to attend a mock trial competition in St. Mary’s when the shooting occurred.
“I was all dressed up, and I went into the bathroom to check my hair,” Cole said. “I don’t remember having much time to think. It just happened.”
After walking into the restroom, Cole met a fellow student holding a shotgun. That student was Ely Serna, a senior at the school, who fired twice, hitting Cole in the chest and, as his body spun around from the force of the impact, in the back of the neck. The second shot barely missed Cole’s spinal cord.
According to news reports at the time, Serna had stolen ammunition from his mother’s bedroom closet early that morning. He then snuck the disassembled shotgun into the school in his backpack, where he reassembled it in a bathroom stall moments before encountering Cole. After shooting Logan, Serna fired at least four more rounds into the school’s hallway and through the doors of two classrooms. No one was seriously injured by these additional shots.
Alone in the restroom with Serna, Cole said he told the shooter, “You don’t have to do this. You haven’t killed anybody yet.” Serna later apologized to Cole before surrendering to a pair of school officials.
“They came in a few minutes after it happened,” Cole said. “And Ely gave up the gun.”
After the shooting, Cole spent 15 days in Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, then three months wearing a neck and back brace to prevent the damage to his spine from worsening. The shots left large wounds in Cole’s chest and back, where the lack of tissue hindered his body’s ability to combat infection. According to Ryan Cole, Logan’s father, the lead pellets fired by Serna’s gun were small, porous, and traveled slowly through the air, allowing them to pick up contaminants that can easily cause infection.
Many of these pellets still remain inside Logan’s body, where they threaten to cause organ failure if the lead content in his blood rises to dangerous levels. Logan undergoes blood tests every two months to ensure that his lead levels continue to drop, which they’ve been doing steadily so far.
Cole and his family were quick to focus on the good that has come out of the experience, despite the struggles involved, beginning by jokingly pointing out that students at Cole’s school had been exempt from semester exams because the shooting occurred during exam week. More seriously, Cole and his parents believe that Serna’s encounter with Logan may have helped dissuade him from trying to hurt anyone else that day. The event also prompted an outpouring of support from the community, including monetary donations which not only helped with the family’s medical and living expenses, but allowed them to help fund a field house badly needed by Cole’s school.
“When something like this happens, people want to know what they can give, and what they can do,” Ryan Cole said.
“It was very humbling,” Julie Cole, Logan’s mother, added.
As for Logan, he said the lessons he’d learned from the experience were complex.
“I know I’ll never go back to being the Logan from before January 20,” he said. “Forgiveness is something that I’ve really spent some time on. It’s hard to say that I’ve forgiven Ely, because I might think that I’ve forgiven him, then find myself getting angry about what was done. I’ve learned that forgiveness is a process. It takes time.”
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