Kylie Ossege, a 19-year-old student at Michigan State University, has experienced two mass school shootings in her lifetime. She was a senior at Oxford High School in 2021 when the first shooting occurred, and 14 months later as a freshman at Michigan State University, she was caught in another tragedy. Despite the trauma and devastation, Kylie finds solace in her dog Blaze, who serves as a source of comfort in a world that has been torn apart by gun violence.
Ossege brushes along Blaze’s wide forehead and then kisses him between the eyes.
“I feel a strong sense of comfort in his presence,” expresses Ossege about the 13-year-old American Quarter Horse she has been the owner of since 2019. “He is my closest companion.”
Time may be a more reliable friend to Ossege, as it continues to accumulate for her like dust in a neglected corner. She is burdened by haunting memories that she cannot erase or ignore: the fifteen minutes she spent wounded and bleeding in an Oxford High School hallway, the six weeks spent recovering in a hospital, and the fourteen months that passed between a fatal school shooting and another at MSU. She also endures constant physical discomfort that she cannot completely alleviate.
On November 30, 2021, during the attack on Oxford High School, which was located approximately 40 miles (60 kilometers) north of Detroit, Ossege sustained serious injuries.
Ossege was near her classmate Hana St. Juliana when she heard a sound resembling a balloon popping. She then collapsed to the ground, weighed down by her heavy backpack filled with books and a laptop. She was unable to move or feel her legs.
She stated that those 15 minutes felt like the longest in her life.
Finally, assistance arrived. Ossege was placed onto an ambulance and quickly transported to a hospital in the nearby town of Pontiac. She remained there for six weeks while recovering, which was longer than any of the six Oxford students and a staff member who were also injured in the attack. Sadly, four individuals lost their lives: St. Juliana, Justin Shilling, Madisyn Baldwin, and Tate Myre, who had been Ossege’s partner at a bullying prevention program earlier that morning at a local middle school.
Ethan Crumbley, a student at Oxford University, was the perpetrator of the shooting. According to Ossege, she was not acquainted with him and refuses to mention his name. Instead, she intends to give a statement in person during his sentencing on December 8th.
“I am enthusiastic about having my words and story shared,” stated Ossege. She dedicated two weeks to crafting her statement, which she anticipates will take approximately 10 minutes to present.
Crumbley, who is 17 years old, may be sentenced to life in prison.
Everyone, including Ossege, is hoping for that.
In 2022, Ossege gave a memorable speech at the graduation ceremony of Oxford High School. She encouraged her fellow students and the community to embrace the motto “radiate and shine,” a phrase she has always shared with her mother, Marita. This saying can still be seen on a sign outside Oxford Elementary School.
However, returning has not been a smooth process.
Ossege stated that she has strived to maintain a positive attitude throughout her journey, but her body serves as a constant reminder of the shooting.
During the event at Oxford, Ossege was struck by a bullet which went through her clavicle and ribs before exiting her back. This resulted in a spinal cord concussion that temporarily left her paralyzed. She had to undergo surgery to remove a part of her vertebral bone and alleviate the pressure from a spinal cord hematoma.
After undergoing rigorous physical and occupational rehabilitation, Ossege is now able to walk once more, although he continues to experience persistent discomfort.
A sophomore at MSU, who is majoring in kinesiology, shared that the only relief she finds is from taking medication and resting by either laying down or sitting. She is inspired by her own caregivers and often relies on Uber to get around the large East Lansing campus, as even a short 10-minute walk can be unbearable for her.
A friend of the family introduced Ossege to a high-ranking member at Northwell Health. The health organization is known for its neurosurgery department at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and it was believed they could offer her relief. On July 17, physicians conducted a five-hour fusion surgery that successfully stabilized Ossege’s spine by utilizing screws and rods.
According to Dr. Daniel Sciubba, a surgeon, Ossege’s spine had suffered damage to the supporting elements, causing her to lean forward as if it were an unstable building under the force of gravity. This resulted in severe pain in her neck and upper back.
Sciubba stated that the surgery successfully addressed the structural problems in Ossege’s spine. He anticipates that her pain will decrease gradually and that she will eventually be able to resume the physical activities she used to enjoy prior to the shooting.
According to Sciubba, the next step is to focus on recovery. The individual in question enjoys activities such as tennis and horseback riding, and it is anticipated that she will resume these hobbies.
Ossege stated that the surgical procedure has been a source of improved mood and has also alleviated pain.
She is troubled by the ongoing occurrence of mass shootings in the United States, including the second one she experienced firsthand. In February, a gunman killed three students and injured five others on Michigan State’s campus, leaving her disheartened.
Ossege and her roommates gathered in a bathroom for several hours until they were given the signal that it was safe. A sheriff’s deputy from Oakland County, who had become friends with Ossege after the Oxford shooting, drove to MSU to pick her up and bring her back home. They arrived at 3 a.m.
Ossege expressed frustration and sorrow over the ongoing occurrences of shootings in our world. Having personally witnessed two such incidents with friends, she remains optimistic that change can be achieved in the future.
Ossege is involved in the MSU branch of March For Our Lives, an organization that advocates for the prevention of gun violence. She finds comfort in the ongoing support of her loved ones, including her father, older brother, and mother who left her job at a radiology center to provide full-time care for her daughter.
After finishing school, Ossege drives 30 minutes from Oxford to Mayfield Township to visit Blaze, who is boarded there. On a recent Saturday, when she went to see him, Blaze, the strong brown horse with a long black mane and a white patch on his forehead shaped like a pizza slice, excitedly ran towards her.
“She greeted Blaze with a carrot and later spent time grooming him, which she claims helps with her post-traumatic stress disorder.”
“He’s simply amazing. He looks out for me and makes me feel secure,” Ossege expressed. “He’s like a big, friendly puppy.”
Ossege and Blaze strolled to a meadow where he could feed on the grass. She grinned and gazed at him as he chomped on the late-autumn grass with his large teeth, causing his black toupee to slip down from the top of his head.
Ossege expressed that there is still positivity and goodness present in the world.
Robert Bumsted, a Video Journalist for Associated Press, contributed from New York.