What it’s like living with the stigma of being an MSD student


Photo by Nyan Clarke

Ava Steil, Editor-in-Chief

Up until Feb. 14, Parkland was not a notable name. Nobody knew about the small town north of Miami or the 3,100 students that flooded the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But then everything changed.

Due to the rapid sharing of information via social media, television, and print media, the entire country knows what happened, and the name MSD is widely recognized and discussed.

The school year ended and summer began. And with that transition came sleep-away camps and vacations where that inevitable question will be asked: Where are you from?

It is an innocent question that everyone asks, and of course, they have no possible way of knowing what it does to me. And in no way is it their fault, no one is to blame for the pit that immediately appears in my stomach or the way my heart seems to contract.

I tell them, because what else am I supposed to do? As soon as the words leave my lips, the entire room shifts. Everyone’s smiles and cheerfulness have vanished. Some people look at me and others direct their eyes to the ground. Those who do meet my eyes try and give me some kind of comfort through their gaze. It does not help, but the effort is appreciated.

When people learn I am from a school where something so tragic happened, I seem to turn into a china doll. Instead of asking the questions they so want to ask, everyone will simply stare at me from the corners of their eyes. And it is not just the kids, but the adults too.

The adults are worse. Where kids will give me space and leave me alone about the subject, adults will try and censor everything that I come in contact with. They will not act like they are treating me differently, as if I have no way of knowing.

I have no problem with some people being a little uncomfortable about the event, but when adults start to treat me like a hurt puppy, I get fed up. Everyone older than 30 acts like any little thing will set me off, make me break down and they will not know how to handle that. They all expect me to be a shell of myself, so deep in my grief and sadness that I cannot partake in any activity that could be fun.

I sometimes wish that everyone would stop acting so terrified of upsetting me and just ask the questions I know they want to ask. But they never do because being in a traumatic experience makes you an injured baby animal in everyone else’s eyes, and there is nothing I can do but sit there and allow everyone to act like I will break at any moment.