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Fifth Third Shooting Survivor Whitney Austin Talks About Recovery, Prevention

Whitney Austin
John Minchillo
Fifth Third shooting survivor Whitney Austin has been campaigning for sensible bipartisan firearms legislation since she was shot 12 times before the perpetrator was killed by police.

Whitney Austin doesn't mind talking about when she was shot. She was hit 12 times while trapped in the revolving door to the lobby of the Fifth Third tower on Sept. 6, 2018. Three people were killed, and Austin was one of two injured before police shot and killed the gunman.

Austin says it's nothing short of a miracle she survived. And she says today she's in better shape than she would have expected.

"There's certainly some limitations," she says. "It's a little bit harder to do freestyle than it was in the past. I can't throw a football as far as I used to. But in general, I can do everything I need to do."

Austin finds talking about the experience helps her heal. "I only know for me, this works. Continuing talking about what happened to me helps me selfishly heal, and I think selflessly it pulls other people into the conversation and engages them in the movement of trying to prevent gun violence."

While she was still hospitalized, Austin started making plans for what became her foundation, Whitney/Strong. The non-profit aims to bring gun owners and non-gun owners together to find majority-backed solutions. In the last year, Austin says the foundation has started working on suicide prevention, educating medical and mental health professionals, and getting red flag laws passed in Ohio and Kentucky.

Every time there's a mass shooting, it affects her.  She says the worst one to bear was Oct. 24, 2018, when she was returning home to Louisville after surgery in Cincinnati.

"There was a shooting at a Kroger in Louisville. That was the most difficult day for me because it felt like I'm no longer safe. I had, for some reason, fooled myself into believing that this had happened to me in Cincinnati; you're still safe in Louisville. Here I was coming home after a surgery as a result of my mass shooting and then another shooting occurred in my community."

Austin says with every new incident she tries not to focus on the event itself and instead renews efforts in her foundation.

Austin says to memorialize the one-year anniversary of the Fifth Third shooting, she wants to spend time with the police officers who ended the rampage, the medical personnel who saved her life and her family.

Friday, the night of the anniversary, the Whitney/Strong Foundation is holding "A Night for Life," which will "provide an in-depth overview of the majority-supported solutions we've selected to help end the epidemic of gun violence in our country." The event is at the Muhammed Ali Center in Louisville and is sold out.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.