In the midst of the trauma and tragedy immediately following the Chardon High School shooting, Nate Mueller described in detail what happened in the cafeteria.
The then-16-year-old was sitting at a lunchroom table with Russell King Jr. and Demetrius Hewlin when shots were fired just before 8 a.m. on Feb. 27, 2012. Those three students died of gunshot wounds, while Mueller escaped. His only physical injury was from the bullet that grazed his ear.
Mueller said the gunman, who he identified as TJ Lane, was sitting alone at the table behind him.
"We were talking, going on about our day and we heard a loud pop, like a firecracker almost," Mueller said. "I turned around and I looked, and he was standing above this table and he was pointing his gun."
Mueller, a junior at the time, talked to reporters on a street corner that day while police were still swarming the school. His face and his Ohio State sweatshirt appeared on TVs across the country along with his account of the shooting.
"I actually believe when it happened that it was a fake gun. I figured if I were to be hit by a gun, it would hurt more," the teen said. "I heard three (shots). The initial one that made me look, the one that I believe hit either Russell or Demitrius and then the third one that hit me."
"Russell didn't move at all because I don't think he really knew," Mueller said. "That shot I saw TJ take as I turned around had hit Russell and he was over the table in like a puddle of blood." He said Hewlin was on the floor next to a pool of blood.
The teen said he jumped over Nick Walczak, who was paralyzed in the shooting, to get out.
"It was terror. Everything had just went tunnel vision. I need to get out of here. You see glances of your friends all over the place. There's blood. There's people screaming. Everybody's running in different directions and you're just trying to get out," Mueller said.
"That's all you can do is get out of the school and not look back, even though your friends are back there hurt."
Mueller ended up hiding between parked cars outside the school while he made a short call to 911. He said other students started gathering outside.
"There's someone with gun at Chardon High School," Mueller said he told the female dispatcher.
"It was being in shock and not knowing what to do, Mueller said. "That loss of knowing, of having confidence in knowing what to do in a time like that and it's just gone. I think is a fear of its own, it's unexplainable."
Mueller, who was friends with Lane in middle school, said the shooter was a quiet boy who had become gothic. Mueller acknowledged the "goth kid" stereotype, but said he never thought Lane would hurt anyone.
Mueller said he did not see any of Lane's friends in the cafeteria that morning. He said he never heard Lane talk about guns, or even say anything about hunting or fishing.
Now 17 and a senior at Chardon High School, Mueller has changed his after-college plans from studying culinary arts to studying political science. He made his first trip to Washington D.C. as part of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns "Demand a Plan" campaign. Along with 120 other survivors and family members of shooting victims, Mueller met with Congress and advocated against military-style assault weapons.
"I always kind of question why it wasn't an inch to the left and I'm here talking to you," Mueller said. "It kind of makes me think I was made to go out and do something about it. And that's what I've been doing, trying to change the laws that need to be changed and make people safer. I feel like it's almost my duty."
"People think we want regulations and to take your guns away, and that's not the case. We just don't want guns to be in the hands of people who don't deserve it," Mueller said.