Around this time of year, as families tend to reflect and make up for lost time with loved ones, expressing their gratitude for each other, the Kline family is especially grateful this Thanksgiving.
On Nov. 14, Saugus resident and mother of four Katie Kline felt something wasn’t right when she was unable to reach her son Andrew, 14, amid reports of an active shooter at Saugus High School, where the boy and her stepson Brady go to school.
Too many minutes passed by before learning about his whereabouts, but when they did, there was a sigh of relief. When they reunited, it was instant gratification.
This Thanksgiving, the Kline family is thanking the community, including teachers, first responders, medical staff, friends and family for their support and aid in saving Andrew’s life after he was shot in the thigh and was the first of three students to be released from the hospital for gunshot wounds.
At the same time, they’re thinking about Saugus students Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15, and Dominic Michael Blackwell, 14, the two teenagers who succumbed to their injuries after a 16-year-old boy opened fire on campus on his birthday and later turned the gun on himself.
Their families are especially in their thoughts, said Katie.
“I did not know Gracie or Dominic’s family,” she said. “I met them (because of these events) and they seem like amazing people. It’s so gut-wrenching to think that those kids passed away but, at the same time, there’s going to be good that will come from it. It won’t be overnight and those families’ pain won’t ever leave but we believe God does have a purpose.”
For the family of six, there have been some positives, which she hopes will inspire other families, whether directly affected by the shooting or not, she said.
“This has brought our family closer because we have this sense of not knowing how much time you have with each other,” Katie saidf. “Our kids are in sports; they’re busy. You go every day so busy that you don’t think, ‘Let’s just stop and try to sit down the six of us and have dinner at the table.’ It’s hard. Those things have been an eye-opener for us.”
With more time to reflect, Katie said there’s something else she’s thankful for: a guardian angel.
On the day of the shooting, Andrew rode his bicycle to school wearing a windbreaker jacket that belonged to his cousin, who died of cancer at a young age.
“Andrew had on my nephew’s windbreaker and used it as a tourniquet on his leg to stop the bleeding. If we believe in guardian angels, it was my nephew. Sometimes it just gives you a feeling,” she said.
The 14-year-old was released from Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and did not require surgery since the bullet went straight through his leg, missing bones and arteries, according to hospital officials on the day of his release.
Today, Andrew is “healing really well with a little bit of a limp,” said his mother, adding that while “he can’t stop thinking about it every day, he’s talking to friends and has gone over to their houses briefly and that’s really helped him.”
Katie, who said her husband’s headstrong outlook these past weeks has helped her, took to social media on Nov. 26 to share her family’s story following the shooting. On the Saugus Strong Facebook page, her post received hundreds of responses, with comments like, “Katie, your story made me cry,” and, “As a community, we need to know we’re in it together always, and sharing our experiences can only make us stronger and more connected.”
“I feel like I need to do more (to give back),” said Katie. “I don’t know what that is or how I could do it. So, that’s why I wanted to share my story so that someone can relate and read it and feel a little bit of joy.”
The Kline family is thinking about doing counseling together as they prepare to return to a normal routine, including returning to school, said Katie. Saugus High School will reopen for classes on Monday.