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'The most positive and negative year of my life': UNC Charlotte shooting survivor Drew Pescaro details challenges, finding happiness

Drew Pescaro was one of four students who survived after being shot in a UNC Charlotte classroom.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Drew Pescaro eventually has children and grandchildren, he would describe the year between April 2019 and April 2020 as the best and worst year in his life.

"A lot of good things were going on in April," Pescaro recalled. "I remember saying, 'This is one of the best months of my life,' and then what happened, happened."

What happened was Pescaro was sitting in a classroom in Kennedy Building on April 30, 2019, when a gunman stormed in and shot several students.

One bullet struck Pescaro, which missed his spine by just an inch.

He underwent multiple surgeries and spent weeks in the hospital.

"While you're in the hospital for that, you're just constantly, every single day, you're receiving really intense pain medicine," Pescaro said. "You're not thinking; you're just kind of out of it."

During that time, Pescaro became a household name.

A communications major and sports fanatic, he got to chat with Tim Tebow, met Panthers and Hornets players, and toured ESPN's studios.

"I was in a good place because I was doing a lot of fun things," he said.

He began to use his platform to help and encourage other people.

"It's okay to need help," he said. "It's okay to not be okay."

His message started to become more political.

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"I wasn't trying to play a partisan side with it," he said. "I'm 20-years-old. This happened to me while I was trying to attend school. That's not acceptable."

He returned to campus in August, and as the semester wore on, negative feelings began to creep up.

"Going back to being 'normal student Drew' was just weird, and, at times, it kind of felt lonely," he said. "You didn't have as many people reaching out to you."

He said he began down a road toward prescription drug abuse.

"It was a combination of not wanting to think about stuff, but also, I literally was at a point where I couldn't go to sleep because of the racing thoughts," he said. "It wasn't a very serious thing, I'd say, but enough to the point I had to realize, 'okay, if I keep doing this, it will become a serious problem."

He logged off of Twitter for several months and decided to take all his spring semester classes at home.

In his weekly therapy sessions, Pescaro, who's a Communications major, realized he didn't know how to communicate his feelings.

"That's when I started to come back up, and it's still difficult," he said. "But I'm in a lot better place than I was during that fall to wintertime.

He's now looking forward to next spring when he will marry his girlfriend of six years and graduate from school.

"Being able to walk across the stage after going through such a traumatic experience is going to weigh on me a lot both in positive and negative ways," he said.

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