Residents struggle with ‘shell shock’ as they return to burned-out neighborhood

Published: Jan. 23, 2020 at 4:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three days after triple-murder suspect Jerry Hanel torched his neighborhood amid a hail of gunfire, resident Gisela King returned to the home where she was stabbed. The area is now a vacant lot filled with nothing but ash.

King is a survivor ‪from Sunday’s‬ rampage in an affluent area on the slopes of Diamond Head. She was stabbed multiple times by Hanel before her neighbors rescued her.

Her neighbor Russell Freeman said they are grateful to be alive.

“My neighbors are kind of in shell shock,” said Stephany Sofos. “They’re reeling and a lot of them are homeless and a lot of those houses have been in families for years.”

Sofos went live on her Facebook during Hanel’s rampage. She wanted to document what she thought were her final moments.

“I felt that I could have died and I wanted my family and friends to know what was happening,” Sofos said.

[Read more: Street where violent rampage happened reopens, but a sense of normal is likely years away]

As residents begin to return to the neighborhood, there’s growing concern about how they’ll cope with the emotional trauma of the day.

“No two people experience a traumatic event in the same way," said Psychiatric nurse practitioner Sondra Leiggi Brandon.

“Some of the things they might experience are intrusive memories, where they’ll have flashbacks, upsetting dreams, nightmares where they can even re-experience the trauma.”

Nessie Cruz hid in her friend’s closet and prayed until a police officer came to her rescue.

"The first day I couldn’t sleep at all. The second day, I was trying but any kind of noise, it’s scary for me,” Cruz said.

Cruz and Sofos said they are forever grateful for the first responders that day who guided them to safety.

"This one man not only killed the officers and he killed his landlady, but he killed the soul of my neighborhood,” said Sofos.

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