I am a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. In the days since the attack that killed 17 people here, I have continued replaying those terrifying moments in my head.
It began when a fire alarm went off just before school was supposed to end. We thought nothing of it. People in my finance class had already left, and I grabbed my backpack to evacuate. The next thing I knew I heard people running and shouting, and my teacher yelling at us to get back in the class.
I sprinted to her closet and crammed myself against shelves filled with papers and binders. The rest of the closet filled up with the other students. We thought it was an active shooter drill. It wasn’t.
My phone flooded with messages from friends and family, from other states and other countries, asking if I was O.K. The world knew what was happening even before we did. I texted my sister to make sure everything was all right with her. I checked in with my friends, and most of them were safe, or had evacuated. I texted my family and told them that I loved them.
My classmates scoured the internet, searching for news about what was happening. We found out the shooter was in the freshman building, 50 feet away from our classroom. I was busy shaking in the corner of my little bunker, trying to calm my panic, while rumors about the shooter and the victims arrived by text and Snapchat. We could hear loud noises outside. Were they gunshots? We weren’t sure.
After over an hour of confusion and heat, the police SWAT team finally came to get us.
We ran out with our phones in our pockets, and our hands over our heads. I have never run so fast. I met up with my friends and sat with them, still in shock. I saw kids crying, traumatized. At home it still didn’t feel real. We tried to watch some TV to distract ourselves. We saw celebrities and politicians talking about our school. But it didn’t feel like our school, it seemed like a movie, a dream, a nightmare.
My parents worked hard to leave war-torn Lebanon so that their children would never have to experience the violence and loss that they did. My dad was a first-aid volunteer with the Lebanese Red Cross. He continued his engineering education, worked for General Electric in France and was transferred to the United States. My family lived in Utah; Colorado, where I was born; Minnesota; and finally Florida. My parents chose Parkland to settle in because of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s stellar reputation, and because we thought that it was a safe place to live. But that isn’t true anymore. The promise of safety and security failed us.
…We can’t let innocent people’s deaths be in vain. We need to work together beyond political parties to make sure this never happens again. We need tougher gun laws.
If a person is not old enough to be able to rent a car or buy a beer, then he should not be able to legally purchase a weapon of mass destruction. This could have been prevented. If the killer had been properly treated for his mental illness, maybe this would not have happened. If there were proper background checks, then those who should not have guns would not have them.
We need to vote for those who are for stricter laws and kick out those who won’t take action. We need to expose the truth about gun violence and the corruption around guns. Please.
It’s devastating that this happened on Valentine’s Day, a day that’s supposed to be about love. Take this as a sign to hug your loved ones and be sure to tell them you love them every day because you never know when it will be their last.
If you have any heart, or care about anyone or anything, you need to be an advocate for change. Don’t let any more children suffer like we have. Don’t continue this cycle. This may not seem relevant to you. But next time it could be your family, your friends, your neighbors. Next time, it could be you.
CHRISTINE YARED, writing in the New York Times, “Don’t Let My Classmates’ Deaths Be In Vain.”