Dateline   |  April 21, 2014

The Road Home, part 5

At Virginia Tech Sam meets up with a good friend, Kristina Anderson. Kristina gives Sam a tour of Norris Hall, where she was shot three times, and their bond gives her the strength to talk in the classroom where she almost lost her life.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> i'm so grateful to have met you and for our time together.

>> likewise.

>> ah, god bless you in your journey here.

>> thank you, sir.

>> joe's words have had a big impact on sam . and as he leaves niu, something joe said really stands out.

>> one of the first illusions to fear is expose yourself to that fear. when you do that, pay attention to how you're feeling. you realize that i can handle the fear.

>> and other than columbine, no place on this journey holds more fear and trepidation for sam than virginia tech .

>> it was april 16 , and i figured that they were just playing some old footage of columbine, and i looked up, and i noticed that there was a live symbol in red at the bottom of the screen.

>> this is easily the saddest place in our nation tonight, because this place will now be known forever as the scene of the largest mass shooting in u.s. history .

>> my heart just exploded. and i couldn't get myself under control, and i pretty much went in and out of what felt like blacking out. and i was just floored, just speechless.

>> and that memory is making him anxious as he nears the campus. but he's comforted by the thought that a friend is waiting. christina anderson , a virginia tech survivor sam has already interviewed for his documentary. sam even showed her around columbine.

>> see, there's like a window?

>> now she will return the favor.

>> oh, yeah, there she is!

>> hi, buddy.

>> hi.

>> you're here in real life .

>> oh, buddy. thank you for coming.

>> norris hall is where 30 students and professors were killed, where christina herself was shot three times.

>> and so that's the hallway, the second floor is where it happened.

>> this photo of christina became one of the most dramatic and enduring images of the tragedy, and to think christina tells sam that she usually skipped this particular class.

>> we just decided not to go. how life would have been -- that's actually crazy when you go into how life could have been different. yeah.

>> but you, it didn't happen that way.

>> exactly. exactly.

>> so here we are.

>> christina has never been able to spend more than a couple of minutes in the classroom, but sam 's presence gives her the courage to suggest they should have their conversation just a few feet from where she was almost killed.

>> he was halfway down the hallway at this point and shooting in the classrooms. he shot me the first time in the back, and he came back and shot me in the back again. there was no barrier. it was just a person who had a gun and a very horrible intent, if you think about that that's even possible in today's world, for some idiot to decide and to end that many lives.

>> and then he killed himself in this room.

>> yeah. in the front, like right here.

>> recounting the shooting is something christina believes has been integral to her emotional recovery, but it didn't come easy.

>> the first, like public talk i gave about the shooting, we must have spent six months prepping for it with my therapist. i would get to pick where i started the story, and we could quickly figure out at one point my voice would start shaking or i would slow down or start crying, and then we would talk and focus really minutely on that detail.

>> and no matter how many times she shares her experience, emotions can still bubble up, some quite unexpectedly.

>> like your daughter's been shot.

>> like today when christina recalls how her mom, driving to the hospital on that tragic day, believed her daughter might have been killed.

>> my mom was, like, losing it completely the entire time.

>> it's okay.

>> it was like two hours into the ride. and they, the doctor called. and he told them that i was going to be okay. and so they got there, like right as i woke up.

>> you're okay now.

>> it's not that, i knew i was going to be okay. it's my mom, like.

>> that happened to me.

>> sam 's got a story about his mom, too. how i saw her for the first time after he escaped columbine with his life.

>> she was holding me up as i was hugging her, and i was just crying so much. i try and explain this feeling to people where there's no more barriers of safety between life and death .

>> yes.

>> and seeing my mom was the first barrier i could put back up, and it was like, such an overwhelming sensation.

>> for christina , the memories of all these scenes of human fragility are what makes the buildup to each anniversary so difficult.

>> this is the day that everyone wants to share with you what they've been through and how they heard about it. but it's also the day that you almost lost your life. and i think the part that makes you really scared is it reminds you how vulnerable we were and are.

>> but on this day sam and christina have each other. and a photo to remember the special bond they shared.

>> we took a picture, and she said that was by far the happiest i've ever been in a picture in front of norris hall .

>> so maybe there was some two-way healing in this little visit.

>> yeah, i mean, it means so much to her and to me to know that the power of these friendships and these connections can heal and hold your hand through all these places and these moments. had.

>> before he left, sam spent a few moments reflecting at virginia tech 's victims' memorial on a bench engraved with the words, in honor of the survivors.

>> one of the kind of miraculous things that happened was it started snowing. pan when virginia tech happened in 2007 , it started snowing on that day. i just had to sit there for a while and feel it. feel the snow hitting my face. it was really, really magical. hello, my old heart how have you been how has it been don't you worry in there you're safe

>> next stop, columbine.

>>> coming up, finding light in