In the quiet township of Mayfield, Michigan, the echoes of two tragic school shootings linger for 19-year-old Kylie Ossege. Having survived the horrors of Oxford High School in 2021 and, devastatingly, another shooting at Michigan State University just 14 months later, Ossege's world is haunted by the specter of bullets. However, amid the shattered fragments of her reality, there is solace found in the company of Blaze, a 13-year-old American Quarter Horse who has become more than a pet—he's a lifeline.
Ossege's gentle touch and a kiss between Blaze's eyes offer a respite from the relentless memories that cling to her like dust in the corner of a room. Blaze, a steadfast companion she's owned since 2019, stands as a symbol of comfort in a life scarred by tragedy. "I feel very at home when I’m with him. He’s my best friend," Ossege confides, emphasizing the profound connection she shares with her equine confidant.
Yet, time, like a persistent force, continues to gather around Ossege, bringing with it a relentless bundle of haunting memories that refuse to fade. The 15 minutes she spent wounded and bleeding in an Oxford High School hallway, the subsequent six weeks of hospital recovery, and the 14 months that separated two traumatic school shootings—all weave together into a painful tapestry that daily physical pain serves as a constant reminder.
During the November 30, 2021, attack at Oxford High School, Ossege suffered severe wounds that would alter the trajectory of her life. The sound of gunfire, like a balloon popping, echoed in the hallway as she fell to the ground, lying beside classmate Hana St. Juliana, who tragically lost her life in the shooting. Ossege, pinned by a heavy backpack filled with textbooks and a laptop, was paralyzed, unable to move or feel her legs.
The longest 15 minutes of her life eventually led to help, with Ossege being rushed to a hospital in Pontiac, where she would spend six weeks in recovery. Her physical healing extended beyond her own, lasting longer than any of the six students and staff injured in the attack. The weight of loss hung heavily, with four lives lost, including St. Juliana, Justin Shilling, Madisyn Baldwin, and Tate Myre—Ossege's partner in a bullying prevention program just that morning.
The assailant, Ethan Crumbley, an Oxford student whose name Ossege refuses to utter, is now facing the consequences of his actions. On December 8, Ossege plans to deliver an in-person victim impact statement during Crumbley's sentencing hearing. The statement, carefully crafted over two weeks, is a testament to Ossege's resilience and determination to have her voice heard. Crumbley, at 17, could face a life sentence, a prospect Ossege and others hope will bring a semblance of justice to their shattered lives.
In the midst of this harrowing journey, Kylie Ossege finds strength and solace in Blaze, her four-legged companion, as she continues to navigate a path toward healing and justice.
In 2022, Kylie Ossege stood on the stage at Oxford High School's commencement, delivering a poignant address that urged her classmates and the community to "radiate and shine." It was a mantra she had long shared with her mother, Marita, a sentiment that continues to adorn a sign outside Oxford Elementary School. Despite the resilience and strength demonstrated in that moment, returning to the place where her life was forever changed has proven to be a challenging odyssey.
Ossege's positivity, a beacon throughout her arduous journey, has been tested daily as her body serves as a relentless reminder of the Oxford shooting. A bullet's trajectory through her clavicle and ribs, exiting her back, resulted in a spinal cord hematoma and a brief paralysis. Surgical intervention was necessary, involving the removal of a portion of her vertebral bone to alleviate pressure. Intensive physical and occupational therapy followed, enabling Ossege to walk again, albeit with constant pain.
Despite her unwavering resolve to remain positive, Ossege's physical condition is a constant companion, demanding medication and periods of rest for relief. The sprawling campus of Michigan State University, where she now studies kinesiology, sometimes necessitates unconventional measures, such as ordering an Uber for what would be a 10-minute walk, a testament to the challenges she faces.
A ray of hope entered Ossege's life when a family friend connected her with a neurosurgery team at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, part of Northwell Health. On July 17, a successful five-hour fusion procedure took place, stabilizing her spine with screws and rods. Dr. Daniel Sciubba, one of the surgeons, likened her spinal condition to an unstable building leaning under gravity, causing extreme pain. The surgery addressed structural issues, providing relief and paving the way for recovery.
Sciubba anticipates Ossege's pain levels will diminish over time, allowing her to return to activities she enjoyed before the shooting, such as tennis and horseback riding. The surgery, a significant milestone, has not only alleviated physical pain but has also served as a mood booster for Ossege, offering a glimpse of hope on her journey to healing.
However, amidst her personal triumphs, Ossege remains dismayed by the continued scourge of mass shootings in the U.S. She experienced a second one on Michigan State's campus in February, where a gunman claimed three lives and injured five others. As Ossege looks toward her own path to recovery, she is acutely aware of the broader societal challenges that persist, a stark reminder that the journey from tragedy to hope is one intertwined with collective resilience and a call for change.
In the wake of unimaginable trauma, Kylie Ossege, a survivor of two harrowing school shootings, finds solace and strength in the enduring bonds of friendship, activism, and the comforting presence of her equine companion, Blaze.
The echoes of gun violence continue to haunt Ossege, who, alongside her suitemates, endured hours of fear and uncertainty in a bathroom on Michigan State University's campus during another shooting incident. It was a stark reminder of the persistent threat that lingers in today's world. An Oakland County sheriff's deputy, who had become a friend during the Oxford shooting, came to Ossege's aid, providing comfort and a journey home in the dark hours of the night.
Angry and saddened by the repeated occurrences of such tragedies, Ossege reflects on the profound impact these events have had on her and her friends. However, amidst the despair, she clings to hope, believing in the potential for change. Ossege channels her emotions into activism, actively participating in the MSU chapter of March For Our Lives, a group dedicated to advocating against gun violence. It is through collective action and a sense of community that she envisions a path towards a safer future.
The unwavering support from her family, including her father, older brother, and mother—who made the selfless decision to leave her job to care for Ossege full-time—serves as a pillar of strength in her healing journey.
When Ossege returns home from school, she embarks on a 30-minute drive north to Mayfield Township, where Blaze resides. The reunion with her four-legged friend is a poignant moment of respite. The muscular brown horse, with a flowing black mane and a distinctive white patch on his forehead, eagerly greets Ossege, embodying a sense of safety and companionship. As she grooms and spends time with Blaze, Ossege attests to the therapeutic nature of their bond, emphasizing how it aids in coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the quiet moments shared in a field, watching Blaze graze on late-autumn grass, Ossege finds a profound sense of peace. She acknowledges the darkness that has touched her life but chooses to focus on the light that persists. "There's still light in this world," she says, a testament to her resilience and determination to find goodness amidst the shadows.
As Ossege navigates the complex journey of healing and recovery, she stands as a symbol of hope, proving that even in the face of darkness, the enduring connections with loved ones and the companionship of a loyal horse can illuminate the path toward a brighter future.
In the face of unfathomable adversity, Kylie Ossege's journey from the shadows of two traumatic school shootings to a place of healing and hope stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the human heart. Through the harrowing hours spent in fear on her college campus, the dark echoes of gunfire, and the numbing reality of a world plagued by violence, Ossege's story is one of survival, resilience, and the pursuit of change.
As a beacon of strength, Ossege channels her anger and sadness into activism, lending her voice to the fight against gun violence through her involvement with the MSU chapter of March For Our Lives. In the face of despair, she clings to the belief that collective action can forge a path toward a safer tomorrow.
The unwavering support from her family, who have become pillars of strength, underscores the importance of community in the healing process. Her mother's selfless decision to provide full-time care reflects the profound impact of familial bonds on the journey to recovery.
Amidst the chaos of college life and the haunting memories that persist, Ossege finds solace in the quiet moments shared with Blaze, her equine companion. Their bond becomes a therapeutic refuge, offering respite from the weight of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the serene fields of Mayfield Township, as Blaze grazes on late-autumn grass, Ossege's words resonate: "There's still light in this world. Still good in this world." Her outlook, shaped by resilience and a determination to find goodness amidst the darkness, serves as an inspiration.
As Ossege navigates the complexities of recovery, her story becomes a beacon of hope, illuminating the path toward healing and resilience. In a world too often marred by tragedy, her journey stands as a reminder that, even in the darkest of times, the human spirit has the capacity to endure, find light, and radiate hope for a better future.