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Whitney Austin fights for change one year after surviving a mass shooting

Whitney Austin was shot 12 times in the Fifth Third Bank shooting in Cincinnati on Sept. 6,...
Whitney Austin was shot 12 times in the Fifth Third Bank shooting in Cincinnati on Sept. 6, 2019. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Published: Sep. 6, 2019 at 6:52 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On September 6, 2018, Whitney Austin was shot 12 times by a gunman at a Cincinnati bank. She not only survived, but she has since emerged as a strong voice against gun violence.

“I go back to that moment and what it felt like on September 6th as I was clinging to life and trying to get back to my family,” Austin said. “I know what that feels like and I don’t want anybody else to feel that way.”

Whitney Austin recovering at University of Cincinnati Medical Center after the Sept. 6 shooting...
Whitney Austin recovering at University of Cincinnati Medical Center after the Sept. 6 shooting at Fifth Third Center. (Photo: Provided by Fifth Third)

The year since the shooting has been transformative for Austin, evolving from a gun violence victim to a gun violence activist.

She formed the non-profit called Whitney/Strong. The organization’s mission statement reads: “Realize fewer lives lost to gun violence by advocating and executing responsible gun ownership.”

Part of Whitney Austin’s healing process has been her activism and she continues to lobby public officials nationally and locally. Austin is optimistic there will be some movement in Congress and she has high hopes for a Red Flag Law passing in the Kentucky state legislature.

But Austin has also experienced moments of despair.

On August 4, the day of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, Austin posted a tearful and personal reaction on social media.

“It’s a really hard day,” Austin said in the emotional video. “And it’s even more hard for all of those impacted. I know it makes you feel out of control. It makes me feel out of control.”

“That’s someone who feels helpless,” Austin said about the video. “Someone who is raw with emotion, someone who wants the world to see that this is how a victim behaves when we don’t do our job to keep the public safe.”

Austin said the focus of her mission has evolved into preventing all gun violence, not just mass shootings. She is working in Louisville to build bridges between communities impacted by shootings.

There are lots of organizations out there that are focused on helping survivors and we will support them with our voices in whatever way we can. Because you absolutely need a community to help you heal.

Physically, Austin continues to recover and says she will require at least one more surgery. She can now pick up and hold her children again, something she could not do after the shooting.

Copyright 2019 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.