Community responds to Parkland shooting

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Community responds to Parkland shooting

“My head jerks now whenever I hear the announcements or fire alarms go off at school,” said 17-year-old Lexi Mousaw, a junior at Coral Springs High School in Florida. “I keep thinking that one day they’re going to tell us to hide, that this is a code red and not a drill.”

Lexi is one of the many students from the community in Florida that I had the opportunity of interviewing. A once familiar neighborhood to her has now turned completely unrecognizable, even through her own eyes. Lexi, along with many other students, have lost their sense of safety due to the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.

I grew up in the community and lost friends to the Douglas shooting. I wanted to reach out to my home and hear how they were feeling since the tragic event, and the responses I received were heartbreaking. Many of those I interviewed couldn’t even continue to speak about the tragedy through their tears and erratic breathing. I could feel the emotion that surged through me the day of the shooting just by reliving it all through their stories.

“I’m scared, because I don’t want to be next and I don’t want my brother to be next,” said Azzaria Grant, a 20-year-old friend of some of the victims of the shooting. “My little brother,” was all she could say.

The worries don’t stop here, though. I also interviewed Jackie DeGiovanni, who is not only my oldest sister, but also a pregnant mother with five beautiful boys to look after.

“I didn’t think it would worry me that much seeing as I do homeschool my kids, but it wasn’t until we visited the library together that I realized the whole time I was there, all I kept doing was looking for the exits,” said DeGiovanni. “I kept thinking how am I going to be able to get them all out, to keep them all safe.”

DeGiovanni lives five minutes away from where the school shooting took place.

“I remember locking them in their rooms and telling them to pray as I called my husband, just to make sure that he would be home soon,” DeGiovanni said.

Hearing the cries of a mother is hard, but hearing the cries of your sister as her children play in the background is even more difficult.

As the interviews carried on, I heard different opinions, met different people and understood the variety of responses. For example, when speaking with 18-year-old, Jayson Starler, I was able to get a sense of anger rather than an overwhelming amount of sadness.

“We are flawed and we know it, and yet we don’t try to change anything,” said Starler “Our community isn’t just sad. We’re angry because no one wants to do anything to help us.”

As more videos and messages came in, I decided to put down the pen and simply listen. I heard my community and friends crying and screaming. It brought me to tears because, even with all this pain they were holding, all they wanted to do was make sure that their voices were heard.

When I found out there was a shooting at the school, I remember grabbing my phone as fast as I could. I began texting and direct messaging everyone that I knew went there. The responses came in slowly, but one by one I knew that my friends were safe. I kept telling myself that it was impossible, this doesn’t happen to us, to my home, to my friends. We aren’t the people or the community that this happens to. It had to have been a mistake.

It wasn’t until the very end that I realized I hadn’t received replies from two of my friends.

Then next thing I knew, their faces were being plastered on news outlets and social media posts, followed by the simple acronym of R.I.P. That is when it all became real, when I saw the crying and screaming parents, the students running from the building and the thousands of candles and flowers that followed the streets in remembrance. I realized then that they were gone. When I had to constantly check my phone to make sure my sister wasn’t next, I realized I wanted to make a change. This community in Florida, my community, is suffering from a huge loss, but they are fierce and determined to seek change. That is what we are doing.

“We are the generation that is going to change everything and when we do we’re going to leave you in awe at just how crazy young people can truly be,” Mousaw said.

We’re not trying to take away your right to bear arms. We’re just trying to ensure our right to live, to go to school without having the fear of watching our friends and teachers die. That is our goal.

That is what we fight for.