Christmas massacre survivor joining walkout
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Katrina Yuzefpolsky was 8 when a man dressed as Santa Claus shot her in the face and killed nine of her family members with guns and a homemade flamethrower at a Christmas Eve party in Southern California.
More than nine years later, Katrina is 17 and joining a growing number of teenagers who have survived gun violence and are demanding change to weapons laws. She and students across California and the U.S. are walking out of their schools for 17 minutes on Wednesday — each minute representing a victim of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Katrina and her close friend created a video to help spread the word about the walkout at their school in Pasadena, telling peers that it’s their “duty to stand together as a generation to demand change.”
“I’ve lived through it, and I’m still living my life as best as I can,” she said. “It’s not stopping me, it’s not instilling fear in me. I want that change. I don’t want other families to go through what me and my family went through.”
Katrina was the first one shot when her aunt’s ex-husband, Bruce Pardo, burst into her grandparents’ home on Christmas Eve in 2008. He immediately began shooting, then used the flamethrower to torch the house in Covina, 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.
Pardo killed his ex-wife, who had recently divorced him, and eight of her relatives. He killed himself shortly afterward.
Katrina underwent surgery to remove bullet fragments and close the wound in her cheek that she got before escaping.
Her mother, Leticia Yuzefpolsky — who also escaped the massacre with her other daughter — has worked to make life as normal as possible for her girls and for her niece, whom she adopted after the girl’s mother died in the attack.