After the gunfire: The long road to recovery for gun violence survivors

NORFOLK, Va. - They are called the "lucky ones" - gun violence survivors who are able to walk away with their lives after being shot.

While these survivors heal physically from their injuries, it does not mean they fully recover after the gun fire.

According to police, nearly 150 people were killed in Hampton Roads by shootings in 2016. While the number seems high, it pales in comparison to the hundreds more injured by gunfire. While victims of gun violence who survive a shooting are fortunate to heal from their injuries, not all wounds are physical.

Amanda James of Norfolk was only 10 years old when she watched an argument between her aunt and uncle escalate into her aunt becoming a gun violence survivor.

"He pushed her into the bathroom and as I walked around the corner to see what was going on I saw the gun discharge and I saw my aunt’s foot basically being blown apart," said James. "I will never forget it even as a 54-year-old woman."

After time in the hospital, James' aunt eventually made a full recovery. While she walked with a limp for the rest of her life, she physically healed but her emotional wounds were a different story.

James said her aunt used alcohol to hide her pain.

While it was her aunt who was technically the victim of gun violence, James found herself suffering too.

"Even after that situation happened, going back into that bathroom, going back down that hallway would give me anxiety. I'm not supposed to feel like that," she said.

According to James, the most difficult part of her recovery was the lack of conversation about the shooting with her family.

"I internalized it and then some days I was like, 'if they aren’t talking about it, did it not happen?'" she said.

Through the survivor network with the national organization Moms Demand Action, a group working to find solutions for gun violence, and working as a grief counselor at her Norfolk Church, James is helping others affected by gun violence and finally getting the help she never received.

"When we have a survivor come to us we do have them connected to that network where they can speak with other survivors and just have that support of people who know what they are going through," explained Leigh Anne Woodside of Moms Demand Action.

Now James is working to share her story with legislators to ensure those who survive and witness gun violence are remembered just like the ones who unfortunately die from it.