Stabbed at school, Snohomish girl begins to return to normal life
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
April Lutz, 15, turns to her mother, Sue Lutz, at the family's home in Monroe on Thursday morning.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
April Lutz, 15, at her family's home in Monroe on Thursday. She nearly died from stab wounds suffered at Snohomish High School Oct. 24.
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
April Lutz, 15, laughs with her mother (right), Sue Lutz, and aunt (left), Debbie Mathis, at her family's home in Monroe on Thursday.
Whether they will remind her of fear or how close she came to dying, or whether they will remind her of the people who rushed to her side, or the kindness of strangers and the bond of community -- it is just too soon to tell.
April is 15. She is looking forward to getting her learner's permit, maybe even taking driver's education in a blue Ford Mustang. She wonders if she'll have to go back to P.E. class when she returns to Snohomish High School. She is a little overwhelmed that strangers recognize her in the grocery store. She giggles over people thinking her favorite color is pink -- that's Bekah Staudacher's favorite color. Hers is purple.
Less than two months ago, April was stabbed in a bathroom at school. She and her best friend, Bekah, had been getting ready for class. April was brushing her teeth. Bekah was putting on makeup.
The two girls, friends since the third grade, were just starting their freshman year. The weekend before they had attended their first high school homecoming dance -- a much-anticipated night filled with formal dresses, high heels, up-do hairstyles and corsages.
Two days later, April and Bekah found themselves faced with unfathomable violence.
"I remember almost everything," April told The Herald on Thursday, when she spoke publicly for the first time. She sat on a couch, barefoot, with her knees pulled up to her chin. Her parents, brother, aunts and a cousin surrounded her -- protective of their "miracle child."
A fellow student is accused of attacking April and Bekah. The girl, 15, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault. She allegedly told detectives that she had planned to stab someone when she packed two knives in her backpack before leaving for school that day, Oct. 24.
April bore the brunt of the attack. She was stabbed multiple times with a large kitchen knife. She remembers thinking that she didn't want to die and wanting her mom. She was screaming.
The blade pierced her heart, nearly ending her life. Just four millimeters more to the right or left, and she almost certainly would have died at the scene, doctors say. Just a little more pressure behind the thrust and she likely would have bled to death before the damage could be repaired.
April fought to survive.
"God has plans for you," her mom, Sue Lutz, said Thursday.
"Obviously," April said.
And that's enough for now. Being just millimeters from death is hard to grasp for anyone, especially when life has just begun.
There will be so much to work through in coming months.
"She talks about what happened but she doesn't really talk about it," Sue Lutz said.
For now, April is grateful to those who came to her aid. Their efforts and decisions that day are why she survived. Her friend Bekah tried to stop the attack. She was stabbed and slashed but summoned help.
Other students and teachers also raced to April's side. A boy, whom she knew from geometry class, held her in his arms and pressed paper towels to her wounds until paramedics arrived. Three other boys, all football players, confronted the attacker. One tossed the knife out of that girl's reach.
Snohomish paramedics made the crucial decision to drive April to the hospital instead of waiting for a medical helicopter. They knew her only hope was in the hands of surgeons. In just 24 minutes, they delivered her to doctors at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
Doctors quickly determined that April couldn't wait to be prepped for an operating room. They opened her chest up in the emergency room to relieve pressure from the blood squeezing around April's heart.
April's family and friends filled up the hospital waiting room, praying.
Her parents had already lost one child. Their 22-year-old son, Jamie, died in 2000.
"I asked Jamie and my mom to give her a hug and send her back to me," Sue Lutz said.
She remembers seeing the emergency room bright red with her daughter's blood.
Remarkably, April woke up the next day.
"Miracles do happen," Sue Lutz said.
April first told her family that she owed Bekah her life. Then she asked for her iPod music player and her cellphone. Five days after the attack, she came home from the hospital.
April hasn't returned to classes. Tutors bring her homework. She's scheduled to meet with one of her doctors next week to determine what kind of physical therapy she might need. Sometimes she has pain in her shoulder and arm where she was stabbed. The incision doctors made to open up her chest is still healing.
April is looking forward to being back with her friends. Her mom jokes about enrolling in high school again so she can watch over her daughter.
"No, Mom," April said.
She says she isn't afraid to go back to school.
One person's actions don't define a school or town, brother Josh Lutz said. His sister will be safe at school, people will make sure, he said.
As April's wounds have knitted together, her community also pulled together. The violence shocked and scared them. Yet the outpouring of support for April and her friend comes as no surprise to anyone who has called Snohomish home.
There have been boxes of letters and cards. The owner of a furniture store in Monroe donated a new chair when he heard that the family was there to buy a recliner for April when she came home. People in the community have held benefit auctions and concerts. Detectives returned April's beloved cellphone. Bekah and her dad bought April a new iPod.
"There aren't enough words," Sue Lutz said.
The smile of a 15-year-old girl will do.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe has established a fund for April Lutz. Donations may be made at Sterling Savings Bank, 146 W. Second St., North Bend, WA 98045.
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