‘The Letter’ dives into survivor’s trauma after healing from bullet wounds
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SALT LAKE CITY – When Yvette Rodier woke up in a hospital, she knew, even before anyone told her, that her friend, Zachary Snarr, was dead.
What she didn’t know, however, is that healing from the bullet wounds to her head, side and leg would be the easiest part of reclaiming her life after a stranger shot her and Snarr as they were setting up camera equipment to take pictures of a rising full moon over Little Dell Reservoir on Aug. 28, 1996.
When Rodier, then 18, left the hospital, flanked by her parents, she had a long list of physical injuries, including hearing loss and an open wound her mother had to pack with gauze everyday. A bullet damaged one of her legs so severely, she couldn’t feel it and struggled with a severe limp for many months. Bullets and shrapnel left wide gashes all over her head and caused memory loss and concentration issues for the rest of her life.
Still, it was when she attempted to go on a date a couple of weeks later that she realized her recovery was going to be more complicated than how fast her body could heal.
“We went to a Ute football game,” said Dave Whitby, referring to the University of Utah’s team. “Worst mistake of my life.”
Rodier is sitting across the room from Whitby and she laughs as she interjects, “The Utes have the cannon, and none of us knew how I would respond. I did not respond well.”
Every time the team scores, they fire a cannon.
“So we had to go after maybe the second score,” he said.
Shaken, Rodier decided she’d rather go home than continue the date. The two said goodbye, and though they would eventually end up getting married, it would be a long and winding road before they would find each other again.
What Rodier discovered is that the shadows would follow her long after those bullet wounds had healed. She’d make some decisions to protect herself, including never saying the shooter’s name, but the reality is that her life was changed by the shooting. She’d never feel the same about the mountains or the quiet of a dark night.
And she’d struggle with the kind of guilt many of us can’t understand – survivor’s guilt.
“I definitely feel so bad that I did leave him,” Rodier said, emotion choking her voice. “I often wonder why I didn’t just stay and hold him. Why didn’t I try to put pressure on his wounds?”
Tears fill her eyes.
“I’m fairly certain he was dead when I left him,” she admits. “And …I did learn in court, the very first bullet that hit him killed him. So he was dead. But I didn’t know and why wouldn’t I have just stayed with him and just held him.”
She tries to swallow a sob.
But her determination to reclaim her life was fueled by something else she felt as she laid on the side of the road waiting for an ambulance to carry her to safety.
“I’ve wondered, like, there must be a reason I’m here, right?” she said. “I need to do something. There’s got to be some sort of purpose. And I didn’t feel it for a long, long time. And that was really hard. I kept thinking – something’s gonna show up in my life, and it’s just gonna work.”
But it would take years for her to find that purpose – and the kind of peace she could rely on, even through life’s struggles.