Douglas alumni find strength in action after tragic school shooting

Sam Zern, Editor in Chief

First-year Samantha Schneid was sitting in Microeconomics when she saw the reports that there was an active shooter in the halls of her high school. Immediately, she thought of her sister, who is a current student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Still in lecture, she began frantically texting her sister, fearing that her ringer might go off, and trying to reach her parents, who she assumed were as scared and confused as she was.

Finally, she received a text from her sister that she was hiding in a closet in a building across campus. Still, it wouldn’t be until hours later, when her family was safely home and the shooter in custody, that the full effect of what had happened set in.

“There was no sigh of relief until I found out that my sister was with my parents, in the car with them. That was just the most relieving thing ever,” Schneid, who graduated from Douglas in 2017, said. “I’m an alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and I have so many friends who still go there, so after I knew my sister was safe, the first thing I thought of was all my friends there and hoping that the people I knew and loved were safe. It was just a very scary experience that day and it was something that washed over me. It was a feeling that was just overwhelming the entire day, and in days to come it’s still very mind boggling to think about.”

We need to mobilize to make a change because that’s the only way we can protect kids

According to Time, on Feb. 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida shortly before dismissal time with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle. He pulled the fire alarm, and for six minutes fired on teachers and students in the school’s freshman building. He then abandoned his weapon and walked out of the school with the other fleeing students and proceeded to walk off campus. He was later stopped by police and taken into custody.

Fourteen students and three teachers were killed and fourteen more students were injured. Cruz will be tried on seventeen counts of premeditated murder.

In the wake of the shooting, a number of current and former Douglas students have spoken out about gun violence and safety in schools. Though some political figures have said that it is too soon to be talking about gun control so quickly after a tragedy, Schneid says that it has to happen now.

“Even when I was listening to the news reports as it was happening, gun control and changes in laws and changes that politicians can make, that’s just something underlying that I always believed in and I think this just reinforced that belief,” Schneid said. “Even that night I was thinking something needs to be done about it and we need to mobilize to make a change because that’s the only way we can protect kids.”

In addition to demanding lawmakers make changes to firearm regulations, students are also organizing a number of nationwide protests to continue to raise awareness about shootings in schools. On March 14, there is a planned national walkout, followed by nationwide marches on March 24 and another walk out on April 20, the nine year anniversary of the Columbine shootings.

Vanderbilt first-year and Douglas class of 2017 graduate Abby Brafman returned home after the shooting and returned to campus days later invigorated to take action. Before leaving the airport terminal to come back to campus, Brafman opened her computer and decided to begin planning the is the Nashville March for Our Lives.

Brafman initially envisioned 50 or so fellow students would join her in a Centennial Park demonstration. However, after the first day that Brafman published the event page to Facebook, more than 2,000 people had shown interest, and in recent days that number has grown upwards of 7,000. Now, Brafman is in the process of planning a far larger event than she intended.

“I’m getting a lot of crazy connections from people who are somehow connected to what happened at Douglas,” Brafman said. “I just think anyone with human empathy relates to what happened at my high school and it’s not necessarily, you didn’t have to go there to feel the pain of what happened. Everyone has just been so amazing and there’s a great support system out there for me.”

At the moment, Brafman is searching for students who would be interested in joining an executive planning team for the event. She is also in contact with the organizers of the 2018 Tennessee Women’s March who have been advising her as she begins nailing down the details of where the event will occur, what kind of permits are needed and other parts of a demonstration that she didn’t even know she needed.

I just think anyone with human empathy relates to what happened at my high school

“People are begging me to tell them what the exact locations from point A to point B will be,” Brafman said. “It’s complicated with the city to find exact places to do it but I’m very close to getting that done and once I do that will really get the ball rolling.”

Since the tragedy a little over a week ago, Brafman said that she has hardly slowed down. While the sadness of what happened hits her in waves, her grief is overwhelmed by pride in the strength of her town and the passion that the victims of the event have for making sure this never happens again.

“I’m very invigorated right now,” Brafman said. “There’s definitely moments where I just sit down and start crying, but then I remember what I’m doing and who I’m fighting for and I just stand back up.”

Schneid is also involved in the March for Our Lives process, as well as a number of other events that she hopes will support the victims and raise awareness around school shootings. She and Douglas alumni across the country are working to create banners and signs of solidarity to send to Douglas, as well as raise money for Everytown, an organization that supports gun control and is helping fund the March for Our Lives.   

“I don’t think that grief has to subside for political activism to take action, I think that for me I’m still grieving for the people lost and the people harmed by it, I know my sister is still mourning,” Schneid said. ‘“At the same time however I think that to get through that grieving process and to continue to mourn, the process is to become activists and to make a change.”

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