For the past few weeks, my house has been command central for handling classroom supplies that people around the country have donated to my teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Many of their classrooms were shot up when a gunman opened fire on February 14th, killing 17 of my classmates and school staff.
I’m a sophomore at MSD. At the time of the shooting, I had to hide in a closet for an hour and 20 minutes and get evacuated by a SWAT team.
This is my life now: If I’m not at home, helping my mom manage supplies, I’m in counseling, speaking at a rally, or visiting memorials in the park. Then I go on social media to check my posts about gun control. In less than a day one of my tweets had already been seen by more 2,200 people. Forty-six people had liked it, and 28 people retweeted.
My mom checks on me a lot. Her name is Lisa Glassman.
“Okay, so how are you feeling right now for real?” She asks me. “Tell me what’s going on in your mind.”
A lot is going on in my mind: going back to school; my Twitter life; my activist life.
My friend Alex Wind understands. We know each other from theater class, but now, Alex is more famous for his activism. He helped start the #NeverAgain movement after texting with friends.
Alex said the movement is a way to cope, not necessarily to grieve.
“As much as we are doing all these interviews, we are just kids and we were in that school,” Alex said.
#NeverAgain grew from a hashtag to March For Our Lives, scheduled for next month in Washington, DC and around the country. It’s a lot to handle.
“There are hundreds of messages at all times. And we’re trying our hardest. We’re all so busy all day long,” Alex said.
We don’t go back to school until Wednesday. Since we’ve been home, it seems like everyone is part of the movement. I’m speaking, tweeting, and writing letters to government officials. And I’m not even one of the organizers.
Like Alex said, “There’s no central leader. It’s a team effort. That’s what’s most important. We’ll split up and we’ll say ‘this group do this thing, and this group do this thing.’”
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior Ariana Ortega is part of the activism, too—and she can’t believe how fast everything has changed. “Two weeks ago, I was thinking of prom,” she said. “We were all going prom dress shopping, sending each other pictures. Now all of those things seem so insignificant.”
Since the shooting at our school, Ariana says she and her friends have been coming together via group chats. “We have students speaking about legislative stuff, emotions, plans, everything,” she said.
We all have our own ways to cope. Amanda Edwards, my neighbor across the street, was in the freshman building where the shooting took place. She’s kept more private since then, finding comfort in her writing and piano. Her close friend Carmen Schentrup was killed. Amanda still vividly remembers seeing Carmen in the hallway a few days before everything happened.
“I remember coming out and seeing her, and she kind of slowed down a little bit because she saw me, and she said ‘Hi.’ And I said ‘Hi.’ I remember saying goodbye, and it was the last time I saw her… at least alive,” Amanda said.
A lot of Amanda’s friends don’t plan to go back to school, she said–at least not on the first day it’s back open.
“I think I’m a little bit too scared to go,” Amanda said, “and my dad said that if I ever get scared during the school day on Wednesday, or after that that, I’m fine with leaving early and stuff. Because, I mean, what’s the point of being at school? We’re just freaking out half the time, because there might be a school shooter coming in.”
I get it. I was anxious to go back even for an hour this weekend, to get the stuff I’d left there. When the shooting happened, many of us ran out without our phones and backpacks. I actually felt relief getting everything back. And on a personal level, all the political activity is helping me cope. Otherwise, I’d still be in the background, or sitting in bed.
But some moments are easier than others, and it’s hard to explain to people who haven’t gone through it. I asked my friend Sawyer Garrity what she would say to another teenager who’s feeling numb—someone who hadn’t experienced a shooting like we have.
“It doesn’t feel like it could ever happen to you until it does. It still doesn’t feel real, even if it does happen to you,” Sawyer said.
I don’t know if I’ll stay this involved, or what it will feel like tomorrow, once we’re back at school. It might be good that we’ll be busy all day, and back together.
But I know it will be hard just to walk on campus.