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Originally published February 21, 2013 at 9:19 PM | Page modified February 22, 2013 at 7:18 AM

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Year after Bremerton classroom shooting, little girl’s recovery brings joy

The little girl shot in a Bremerton classroom a year ago is doing “remarkably well,” her parents say. Still, life isn’t the same as before for Amina Bowman.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A year ago, Teri and John Bowman of Bremerton were preparing for the possibility their little girl might never walk again.

Their third-grade daughter, Amina, had been shot in the arm and abdomen when a gun accidentally discharged from inside a classmate’s backpack at Armin Jahr Elementary School in Bremerton.

This year, Amina, nearly 10 and a fourth-grader at a different school, is spending full days at school and playing basketball with friends.

“From a physical standpoint, she’s done remarkably well,” John Bowman said.

But there are significant differences: Amina gets fatigued after 15 minutes of active play. Her elbow hurts when she bumps it. She’s afraid to sleep alone.

A year after the Feb. 22, 2012, shooting, Amina’s parents sat in their lawyer’s office in Seattle to talk about how their daughter is doing. They try to keep Amina’s life as normal as possible, and they did not bring her to talk to reporters.

The gun that shot Amina had been brought to school by a classmate, who, according to court papers, swiped it from his mother’s home to protect himself from bullies.

Amina underwent five surgeries, including removal of her gallbladder, part of her small intestine and a major vein. The bullet is still lodged near her spine.

The boy, who pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and to bringing a weapon to school, was sentenced to a year of probation and counseling. His mother, a felon, pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm; her sentence is pending. The state appeals court is deciding whether the mother’s boyfriend, with whom she shared a home and to whom the gun belonged, can be tried on charges of third-degree assault.

Amina’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the boy’s family, the boyfriend and the Bremerton School District.

Reluctant to go outside

Before the shooting, Amina loved playing outdoors.

Now, “it’s kind of a struggle to get her out of the house,” said John, a University of Washington student and Navy veteran.

Amina’s mother sometimes tries to coax her daughter outside, saying: “Your friends are out there; you should go play with them. They look lonely without you.”

It took time for Amina’s friends to figure out how to be with her. Back when Amina was restricted to a liquid diet, one friend didn’t want to eat around her, for fear Amina would feel left out.

These days, Amina’s friends take rest breaks when she does, stopping their games of basketball, street soccer or tag to sit on the porch and draw or talk.

It also took Amina a while to get used to her scars. But recently, Teri reports, Amina said: “I like them. They make me different.”

Teri asked her daughter if she thought the scars might hold her back from anything.

“Amina said: ‘No, I’m still going to do what I need to do to get into the military,’ ” Teri said. “She wants to join the Army.”

Still, there are hurdles.

Before the shooting, Amina fell asleep easily. Now, she wants someone beside her at bedtime.

She sees a therapist weekly.

Sometimes when they’re out shopping, strangers approach the family and ask if she’s the girl who was shot. Amina occasionally responds with: “Nice to meet you.” More often, she hides behind her parents.

The family has grown closer since the shooting.

Before, Amina and her 14-year-old brother, Darrick, tended to play together only if there wasn’t anyone else around. Now, “he’s always with her. He’s like a guard dog,” Teri says.

Newtown

The day of the school shooting in December in Newtown, Conn., Teri and John pulled Amina and Darrick out of school. The family huddled together talking.

“We didn’t tell her how many people had died. Just that there was another shooting,” said Teri, who said she “waited until the end of the day to cry my heart out in my car.”

Later, when Teri told Amina about crying over Newtown, “she said that mommies and daddies shouldn’t have to cry,” Teri said.

Of the gun-control efforts launched since the Newtown shooting, John says: “For us, it’s more about responsibility. If you have a gun, you should keep it locked up.”

He also believes there should be more attention paid to the problem of bullying in schools.

“That’s what causes kids to react violently,” he says. “They have this perception they’re not being listened to. They think the only way they’re going to get people’s attention is to do something drastic.”

For him, the past year has shown “not only how resilient Amina is but how much closer we’ve gotten as a family,” John said. “We lean on each other when times are bad.”

Information from Seattle Times archives was used in this report.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @janettu.

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