Noel Sudano has gone from a survivor of the Columbine High School shootings to a school counselor at Columbine.
Sudano was a sophomore at the Littleton, Colo., high school when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 fellow students and one teacher and injured 21 others in a mass shooting April 20, 1999. The pair then committed suicide.
Sudano graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle in 2005 and then attended IUPUI. She worked as a volunteer facilitator at Brooke’s Place, 8935 N. Meridian St., Suite 200, Indianapolis, which has provided grief services since 1999.
“I owe much of my healing to the opportunities Brooke’s Place has offered to me,” Sudano said. “It is a huge honor that they would ask me to help them represent the powerful work they do. I am an ordinary person with a not-so-ordinary story. I’m grateful for the chance to support the meaningful work that they do at Brooke’s Place.”
Sudano will be the keynote speaker at the Brooke’s Place Legacy of Hope breakfast from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Nov. 16 at the 502 East Event Centre in Carmel. The annual fundraiser coincides with National Children’s Grief Awareness Day. There is no cost to attend the hot breakfast.
“One of the many things I have learned about my own grief is that I find healing in sharing my story,” Sudano said. “I know that the lessons I learned from the shootings have very much shaped my world view, as well as my career path. Unfortunately, more and more people have a story similar to mine. However, I think anyone that has experienced loss can relate to the desire for someone to walk alongside them. It helps me to find healing knowing that my story may help someone else feel like they are not alone in their struggles.”
Sudano said Brooke’s Place gave her the freedom to experience her grief in her own way while understanding there are some common experiences people may have when grieving.
“I love to have structure, so learning about the tasks of grief, to know, to feel, and to do, helped me to organize some of my thoughts and feelings,” Sudano said. “For about three years after the shootings, I felt like something was wrong with me because I didn’t ‘feel’ enough. I now understand that my brain was busy just understanding the ‘what’ of that day. I needed my time to absorb information, facts, stories from others, then I started to sort through more emotion. More than anything, though, it was healing for me to see the strength and resiliency of the kids I was working with in groups. It was so inspiring to see the courage they found to embrace their feelings and to share them in their own way with the people in their lives.”