Eight days after being slashed with a knife and bludgeoned with a hammer at Pius X High School, Ellen Kopetzky returned to the private Catholic school.
"It's great to be back," she said in remarks to teachers, school administrators and fellow students, who gave her a standing ovation as she entered the gym Tuesday morning.
Kopetzky, 17, said she'd heard from many people since last week, many of whom she didn't know and all of whom offered her support.
"It's been pretty amazing," she said.
“She’s Ellen Kopetzky,” the Rev. James Meysenburg said simply to explain her good spirits.
The night after the attack, Meysenburg said he saw her good attitude firsthand when he visited her in the hospital and she joked about the surgery she’d just had.
“She had plastic surgery, so isn’t she going to be hot stuff,” he said, laughing.
Kopetzky, who went back to school with six stitches in her chin, said she prayed every day for Sarah Piccolo, the 16-year-old Pius X junior accused of attacking her.
Kopetzky, a senior, was released from the hospital a day after the incident -- after surgery to treat injuries to her face and head.
Piccolo was arrested the next day in Yates Center, Kan., 250 miles from Lincoln. She stands charged in adult court with first-degree assault and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, suspected of attacking Kopetzky with a claw hammer and an 8-inch hunting knife. She was released by a judge last week on her own recognizance.
On Tuesday morning, Kopetzky said her part in the ordeal was over quickly, but she knows other Pius students were locked inside the school for a couple of hours, afraid and not knowing what was happening.
Now it’s time to heal, she said, by praying and talking to teachers, counselors, parents and each other.
"We went through it together," she said. "Now we can move through it together."
Kopetzky said she knows there are many questions about why the attack happened, and they may never be answered.
“A lot of us are wondering why this happened. The truth is that I don’t know. None of us know. And we can’t blame anyone, because we don’t know what happened.”
One thing is sure, she said: "God will use it for good."
A motel clerk in Yates Center said Piccolo, who was a junior at Pius X, told her she had been bullied at school.
Pius X officials have no records of Kopetzky or Piccolo bullying anyone and none showing Piccolo was bullied, Diocese of Lincoln spokesman JD Flynn said last week.
“She has good friendships and a good reputation at Pius,” he said of Piccolo.
In an affidavit for Piccolo's arrest, Lincoln Police Officer Joseph Yindrick said Kopetzky had been in her guidance counselor's office, then walked across the hall to use the bathroom near the main office. When she walked in, he said, she immediately was attacked.
"The victim said her attacker was swinging wildly at her with the knife and stick and did not say a word to her," he said in the affidavit.
Her screams for help led a school staff member to go in and get her to safety, Yindrick said.
Police later found a hunting-style knife with an 8-inch serrated blade and a hammer in the bathroom, but Piccolo was gone.
Kopetzky told police she didn't know her attacker's name but recognized her as a junior. Police said the staff member identified her as Piccolo.
Neither police nor school officials have been able to find any sort of connection between Piccolo and Kopetzky as friends, teammates, members of a club, rivals for a boy or anything else.
The 9:45 a.m. assault sparked an armed search at Pius X, 6000 A St., and lockdowns at other schools in the east part of town.
Kopetzky said Tuesday she watched a video of Pius X students and alumni singing "Ave Maria," her favorite song, last week at the North American Martyrs Catholic School in the Highlands.
“It was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen,” she said.
Then, she said, she woke up in the dead of night and it was playing again, that time on her iPod.
The traditional Christian hymn starts by hailing the Virgin Mary.
As I kneel before you,
As I bow my head in prayer,
Take this day, make it yours
and fill me with your love.
Said Kopetzky: “God is comforting me so much.”