*Story is co-written by Nikhita Nookala and Christy Ma*
Valentine’s Day was a day of love, passion and friendships as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School celebrated Feb. 14, 2018 with carnations and teddy bears. It was not until nearly the end of the school day at around 2:30 p.m. that the lives of students and faculty were taken in a violent rampage of hatred.
After already having a fire drill earlier that morning, MSD students were confused by the second fire alarm and walked out of their respective buildings as per protocol. However, none of them expected that it was an alarm triggered by the smoke in the 1200 building as a consequence of the gunshots.
As students in buildings outside of the 1200 building scrambled to any classroom available immediately after the fire alarm to hide, many unanswered questions lingered, including whether the code red lockdown was a drill meant to simulate a real situation or if this was reality.
“I was like, ‘This is a joke, right? Actually it might be culinary,’” senior Nate Kou said. “Then I heard something that sounded like a loud clap, and I said, ‘They must be trying really hard to do this drill.’ I was confused but at the same time there is such a sense of security in Douglas that there was no thought in my mind that we were in any kind of danger.”
The 3,300 students at MSD hid in closets, the corner of their classrooms and behind desks to fend for their lives, uncertain of if they would come out of school unharmed. Students and teachers stayed quiet, following protocols they had practiced for months, texting their families and watching local news for information.
Everyone’s worst fears were confirmed by about 3 p.m., when the Coral Springs Police Department tweeted that MSD was an active crime scene. Teachers in the room with students tried to calm any hysteria the best they could, reassuring them with thoughts of the police coming to help.
The suspect in this case is 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student at MSD who was expelled last year for disciplinary problems. He had also attended Westglades Middle School. According to police and the Associated Press, Cruz began shooting on the first floor of the 1200 building, in rooms 1215, 1216, 1213 and 1214, and proceeded to the second floor, shooting into room 1234. Cruz then proceeded to the third floor, where he dropped his bag and weapon and then exited the building. However, teacher Scott Beigel and senior Joaquin Oliver were on the third floor as well, and fell victim to the shootings, suggesting a different occurrence than what is officially reported on the media. He then allegedly made his way to the Subway located in Walmart, and bought a drink. He also visited a McDonald’s. Cruz was apprehended by police 40 minutes later.
Students in the south wing of the school, including buildings 100 and 200, were luckily far from the action. Nothing was audible, especially to students hidden in storage closets. After some time, police came to these buildings to put classrooms together, where they were safe. The top floor of the 200 building was gathered in newspaper teacher Melissa Falkowski’s classroom, a total of 163 students and 6 teachers, including Michelle Daon and Eric Garner.
Some students in the north wing and in buildings 1200 and 1300 were evacuated from campus, heading towards Westglades Middle School. According to some reports, the shooter was among this crowd.
Police and SWAT came to each classroom individually to allow students to leave campus safely. Students in areas of the school close to the incident were asked to leave their belongings where they were. As of Feb. 17, students still have not been able to recover these items.
Some students were instructed to hold their hands up and run as fast as they could to the bike racks, which face Pine Island Road. Those that were allowed to keep their backpacks were told to leave them on the road, where they were checked by authorities and returned promptly. Students were overcome with relief and sadness to see their friends safely exiting the school, leading to tearfilled reunions on the side of the road. They hugged each other and cried into each others’ arms.
To the knowledge of this staff, MSD students were extremely compliant with authorities, following every instruction without question. Code red protocol was followed. Every rule that was practiced in the last few months was put into place and followed. Yet 17 people still lost their lives.
Some students were bussed to the Heron Bay Marriott hotel. Others walked along Holmberg Road until they saw their parents and were picked up. Students at Westglades Middle School were taken to Betty Stradling Park in Coral Springs or picked up by parents. At this point, students and teachers did not know who was okay and who was hurt. When they woke up the next morning, the news was updated and the fatalities were staggering, placing the Parkland shooting in national ranks. Fourteen students and three faculty members were killed. Others were still in the hospital fighting for their lives.
The victims of this tragedy are freshman Alyssa Alhadeff, geography teacher Scott Beigel, freshman Martin Duque Anguiano, senior Nicholas Dworet, Coach Aaron Feis, freshman Jaime Guttenberg, Coach Chris Hixon, freshman Cara Loughran, freshman Gina Montalto, senior Joaquin Oliver, senior Carmen Schentrup, freshman Alaina Petty, senior Meadow Pollack, junior Helena Ramsay, freshman Alex Schachter, freshman Peter Wang and freshman Luke Hoyer.
Their names will be remembered and their light at Stoneman Douglas will be missed.