On Wednesday, a former student opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at a Florida high school, killing at least 17 people and sending hundreds fleeing into the streets in the nation's third-deadliest school shooting. The shooter, who has been identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, is being held in a Broward County jail on charges of premeditated murder. It's the 18th school shooting to take place in the United States this year. Olivia Worthington, a junior at the high school, experienced the situation firsthand. Here is her story.
The last time I talked to Nikolas Cruz was my freshman year of high school. We were alone at the bus stop at 6:30 in the morning and he asked if he could sit next to me. I nodded yes. Two years later, I would learn he was the person who gunned down and killed a bunch of people at my high school. People I knew. My friends.
I am a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2018
It was almost the end of the day and I was in U.S. History class when the blaring alarm went off. Again. We had already had one fire alarm earlier in the day so I was confused. But we evacuated anyway. We all went outside to our designated spot - a field - and meandered around as we waited for the all clear. Suddenly, my teachers started yelling that we all needed to run.
So I ran. Even though I was still completely confused about what was happening. Meanwhile, on the other side of the school, bullets were flying and people were dying. But at the time, I didn't know that. I didn't hear gunshots. I didn't see anything unusual. Instead, I thought that maybe it was a real fire this time.
A giant group of us, including some teachers, ended up in an area between a canal and a fence. Some students around me started saying that they had heard gunshots, but there had been active shooter drills before where they would shoot blanks, so I didn't believe that's what was happening. I've always thought of where I live as the safest place. It had been about 20 minutes, and that's when my friend got a call from her mom. There was an active shooter at our school. It wasn't a drill. Six hours later I would turn on the television and realize that my former neighbor was the shooter and that a friend and other people I knew were his victims.
But in that moment, I was in shock.
Everyone began throwing their bags across the fence and climbing over. It was about nine-feet high and hard to climb. I still have a bruise on my thigh from trying to get across and from helping other girls around me get over. We had no choice - the shooter could have been anywhere - and it was the only quick way to escape to the Wal-Mart parking lot next door where we felt safer.
Everyone was crying. The hysterical kind of crying. But I surprised myself and stayed pretty level-headed. There was no time to panic - I was focused on practical things, like making sure all of my friends that were in the parking lot with me had a ride.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2018
Somehow, I managed to sleep that night. But I am devastated. I don't even want to think about going back to school. I no longer see it as a place of education, but as a crime scene.
It's surreal to think that I had previously lived next to the shooter for about six years. He was strange. I knew him as a troublemaker who would yell profanities on the bus. He would shoot guns in his backyard, which is weird to think about now, but I never thought that he would do something like this. When I began to drive myself to school, I didn't really interact with him anymore.
Now, I no longer think of him as my neighbor. Now he's the person who killed my classmates, including a close friend - a person I had Photoshop class with and someone who I always had a good time with and could always talk to. It hurts to think our memories will never be closer than that.
I'm sad, but I won't be silent. The victims of gun violence are consistently young people - we are being hunted. I want to tell all the adults who can actually do something about this that the AR-15 is the gun almost always used in school shootings. Civilians do not need access to this gun and access to it should be blocked immediately. It's disgusting that children, teens - my friends - are dying because of outdated gun laws.
I shouldn't have had to go through this. No one should.
If you are experiencing emotional distress or suicidal thoughts, text 741741 to the Crisis Text Line. There is a trained professional waiting to help you.
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