By Selene Raj
Kimberly Krawczyk is not a hero — or, at least, she would prefer if you didn’t call her one.
An educator of 16 years from Delray Beach, on February 14, 2018, she was teaching a freshman geometry honors class in room 1257 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas when a killer with an AR15 attacked.
Krawczyk did her best to protect her 25 students, who all survived the massacre. But, they had to walk over seven of their deceased schoolmates to exit the 1200 building. Their experience has undeniably traumatized them in ways that most people cannot relate to.
“When you love kids, and you want to teach them and help them grow, and then you walk over dead bodies, sometimes you just think nothing good is ever going to happen again,” she said.
And, for a long time, she managed that trauma and grief while still believing that joy might never return — until one day it did.
Coral Springs Police Sergeant Jeff Heinrich, who had carried a student out of the building, was also struggling to cope. Neither of them knew it at the time, but both he and Krawczyk’s lives would be forever changed when he confided in his friend Andre Sadowski, a former officer, who bred service dogs.
The couple learned about Krawczyk’s work holding her former classroom together, years after their experience.
“We do everything together—get pizza, talk, we do Zoom, almost everybody shows up to at least one thing,” said Krawczyk about the “1257 group.”
They’re the reason she has continued to teach, and after they graduate, she plans to retire.
“I just ordered the kids‘ Christmas gifts, and I’m writing their last letters of recommendation, and it’s been tough—a lot of tears,” she said.
The couple insisted on gifting her with a service dog to help her refocus on herself, even after her initial protests.
So, in August, she met the four-month-old pup who would transform her life forever, reuniting her with a version of herself she believed no longer existed. A German Shephard, his name is Archimedes, that she calls Archie for short.
“He saved my life, literally,” she said, “There were a lot of moments where I didn’t know how to move forward.”
Courtesy of Steadfast, and the help of fundraising, Archie is also being trained by a certified K9 Master Trainer, specializing in obedience, socialization, Early Neurological Stimulation, and bringing comfort to survivors.
He is calm, affectionate, and helpful in ways she couldn’t have imagined — making her feel safe and better. He was also trained to help her do things she wasn’t able to do because of PTSD, like stay in a grocery store when there was a loud noise or leave her apartment when the fire alarm went off.
“He makes me feel like I have one more reason to get up,” she said.
Archie accompanies Krawczyk to school every day, helping her in and out of the hallways. Also, he serves as a campus emotional support animal. When Krawczyk sees Archie playing with her students and how happy he makes them, it puts her in a much better place.
“He makes me more available to the people around me, even in times that are trying and troubled — he reminds me of what’s good,” she said.
She said Archie keeps her focused, and when he’s around, she’s a better human.
“When I have someone to take care of, I remember how caring I am, and it reminds me of how much I’m capable of,” she said, “And all of a sudden, I can try to get back to who I was, and that’s big.”
Of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all recipe for finding joy after a tragedy. She has had the love and support of her children and family, consistent and professional therapy, and the bond with her 25 MSD kids — the 1257 group.
However, Archie seems to have been the missing ingredient, and she is forever grateful to have found him.
“I don’t know what my life would look like with Archie. He keeps me going.”
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master’s in Mass Communications in 2020 and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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