LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On September 6, 2018, Louisville native Whitney Austin was shot 12 times at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati and survived. Two years later, she went from a gun violence victim to an activist by establishing her non-profit, Whitney/Strong.
“If I go back to that day, which I try not to do, it’s difficult, Austin said. “I think about what it felt like to be in that revolving door quadrant, fully collapsed by the weight of all of those bullets and just feeling as if my life was about to end.”
Austin joined fellow survivors and the Cincinnati police officers who saved their lives on a video call a few days before the shooting’s second anniversary. The group shared moments from the tragic day.
“I remember going down the stairs and hearing the shots and thinking, bad word, this isn’t the academy,” Cincinnati police officer Greg Toyeas.
“Everything just came together, the training all just came together,” Cincinnati police officer Alphonso Staples said. “Every day is Thanksgiving, every day is a gift, and there’s a new blessing within every day that things really worked out, that for me, mentally I’m okay.”
Austin told WAVE 3 News the survivors and police officers involved have a strong bond because of the tragedy.
Whitney Strong has done a lot of work over the past two years to prevent future mass tragedies. So far, the non-profit has distributed 10,000 gun locks across Ohio and Kentucky, hosted gun safety training courses, and pushed for bi-partisan legislation to help stop mass violence and suicide. Austin said there is still more work to do.
“Guns are such a divisive topic and in order to pull everyone together, which is absolutely the focus of Whitney Strong, both political parties, gun owners, non-gun owners, it’s going to take someone with a serious story, and I believe that’s me,” Austin said. “I cannot give up because it is tough, tough work, and there will be many people that give up, but not the girl who got shot 12 times. I will never forget and I will never give up.”
Whitney/Strong will host a virtual fundraiser called, ‘A Night for Life’ with local artists and other gun violence survivors on Sept. 25 at 7pm. The evening will feature stories of trauma, resilience, and purpose. Sponsorship opportunities and tickets can now be purchased by clicking here.