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Amid rise in school shootings, Washington state survivor reflects on progress

A survivor of the 2014 shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High school opens up about his reaction to the rising number of shootings on school campuses.

MARYSVILLE, Wash. — A new federal report shows school shootings have risen to their highest number in two decades.

A survivor of the 2014 shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High school opens up about his reaction to the rising number of shootings on school campuses.

“I heard the first shot. I didn't think anything of it. I thought it was a paper bag, when you blow up the bag and pop them,” Cale Lien said.

In October of 2014 at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Lien was waiting in the cafeteria line when a distraught student walked in and opened fire, killing four classmates and then himself.

“Then you hear the other shots coming out and it was pow, pow, pow and then I look and see him shooting around the table,” said Lien.

Lien was able to run away, but there's a memory of one of the girls who lost her life that he can't escape.

“The one thing I remember is her wearing that blue windbreaker and that's one of the first things I saw was her lying on the ground in that windbreaker,” said Lien.

Lien is one of at least 300,000 students who have experienced a school shooting first hand since the incident at Columbine High School in 1999, according to Sandy Hook Promise.

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics counted 93 shooting incidents with casualties through 2020 and 21. Forty-three of those with lives lost and 50 the victims were only injured. Those are the highest numbers in twenty years.

“It's one thing to see someone shooting. It’s another to see your classmates get shot,” said Lien.

The report has a broad definition of a shooting-related incident, including when a gun is only drawn,  or fired on school property, and any shootings that happened on school property while students were learning from home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It also comes on the heels of the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

“You’d think after the first time it happened there would be change,” said Lien.

President Biden recently signed into law sweeping gun legislation. Among other things the legislation bolsters so called “red flag laws” and enhanced background checks for young Americans looking to purchase firearms.

The bill stops short of universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons, which many advocates pushed for in the wake of the Uvalde shooting.

Washington state already has red flag laws, universal background checks, and come July 1st, the state will no longer allow the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

These are measures Lien said works on the state level, but not on a national scale.

“Unfortunately I don't think it will stop much, but it's very much a start,” he said.

Eight years later, Lien is now working to become a P.E. teacher, a decision that came after a teacher helped him following his mother's passing and after the shooting.

“It may sound strange, but because of these traumatic experiences I found what I want to do with my career and with the rest of my life,” said Lien.

Lien said he'd even go back to teach at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, where his story began.

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