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school shootings

Virginia teacher shot by student says she's staying 'positive' amid 'obstacles'

In her first interview since being shot by a 6-year-old student, Virginia teacher Abigail Zwerner said she is trying to "have a positive outlook on what's happened and where my future's heading," as she undergoes strenuous physical therapy that leaves her physically and mentally exhausted.

Police say on Jan. 6, a 6-year-old brought his mother's 9 mm handgun to Richneck Elementary School in Newport News and purposely shot Zwerner. She was hit in the upper chest and left hand, and spent almost two weeks in the hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries. Zwerner was able to safely get 20 students out of the classroom during the shooting.

In an interview with Today's Savannah Guthrie airing Tuesday, Zwerner, 25, said she is facing "obstacles and challenges," but is attempting to "stay positive." There are "not so good days, where I can't get up out of bed," she added. "Some days are better than others, where I'm able to get out of bed and make it to my appointments."

Zwerner recently went through a fourth surgery on her hand, and is still struggling to do tasks like open a water bottle and get dressed. Her doctors don't know if she'll ever regain full use of her hand, Zwerner said, and she finds physical therapy "not only physically exhausting but mentally exhausting as well."

In a few weeks, Zwerner will file a lawsuit in connection with the incident, NBC News reports. Her attorney, Diane Toscano, said the 6-year-old student had known behavioral issues, and on the day of the shooting, three teachers told administrators they were concerned about the student and believed he had a gun. "I can tell you there were failures on multiple levels in this case, and there were adults that were in positions of authority that could have prevented this tragedy from happening and did not," she said.

Police said the gun used in the shooting was legally purchased, but did not say how the child got it and if it had been secured. Earlier this month, Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn told NBC News the "prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic," since he isn't able to fully comprehend the legal system. His office's objective is "not just to do something as quickly as possible," Gwynn added. "Once we analyze all the facts, we will charge any person or persons that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt committed a crime."