Former SHS Student Gives Firsthand Account of Parklands Tragedy

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Former SHS Student Gives Firsthand Account of Parklands Tragedy

Credit: Fabrice Florin

Credit: Fabrice Florin

Credit: Fabrice Florin

Credit: Fabrice Florin

Alex Wilson

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We all were understandably stunned by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting tragedy on Valentine’s Day, and now we’re slowly watching the aftermath of the event unfold as deep mourning and debate over gun control rip through the nation. This aftermath has been most powerfully broadcasted through the students of Stoneman Douglas as their personal accounts of the shooting, including videos and emotional interviews, ripple through the internet. I spoke with Sammy Schneider, a junior at Stoneman Douglas, former student at SHS, and one of my closest friends, to hear his personal account of the tragedy and some of the steps he has taken in light of it. Here is his story:

Sammy left school early on Valentine’s Day because he had last period free, and he went to play basketball at the courts at his apartment complex. When he got home at 2:45, he received a chilling four-word text from his mother: “Shooting at high school.” Sammy was in denial until he saw that same statement appear on his television screen. His first instinct was to text his younger sister, Ava, who was still in the school, but previous lockdown drills in school had taught him to refrain from sending a message to Ava’s phone or to any of his friends’ phones so as not to alert the perpetrator of students in the building. “All I wanted to do was to call or text them, but I was afraid. Luckily, my mom had contacted my sister and she told me that she was okay, but this was not enough. I needed to see my sister and talk to my friends to truly know that they were okay,” recalled Sammy. He sat in front of his TV screen for three hours, anxiously waiting to text his classmates once they were out of the building. However, once the moment presented itself, “the only thing we really said was, ‘How are you?’ because what else are you supposed to say in that situation?” said Sammy. The following day, he was one of thousands to attend a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of the shooting. “Everyone in our town came together. It truly has been amazing to witness,” noted Sammy, with his trademark optimism. Sammy added that outside of the strong unity within the Parklands community, something that has helped him through this difficult time is supportive phone calls and messages from his family, Scarsdale friends, and camp friends from around the country.

After witnessing the suffering in his community, the inspiring speakers at the vigil, and the now-amplified debate over gun control in the country, Sammy decided to channel his anger and grief into something productive: a letter to one of his state’s U.S. Senators, Marco Rubio, advocating for gun control and school safety. He posted the letter on Facebook, where he has received over 1100 likes and comments and approximately 984 shares. Later, he sent other letters to the five senators who receive the most money from the National Rifle Association. Additionally, Sammy’s father and his friend created stickers and magnets with the hashtags #NeverAgain and #MSDStrong, which Sammy helps sell, and all of the proceeds will go to the victims’ families. “We will no longer be known as the incompetent generation that is always on our phones, but the generation that creates change and makes a safer tomorrow,” asserted Sammy.

The shooting has clearly changed Sammy’s outlook on life forever, as it has changed so many others’. “Everyone always talks about how they wish there was a snow day or how they cannot wait for the next vacation, but being away from school for this long when there was not a break already planned really made me realize how much of an important role school plays in my life,” concluded Sammy. So, when Stoneman Douglas opened its doors on February 25th for an open house where students could reunite with their teachers, Sammy entered the building not with tears or fear, but with a smile. He knows the rest of the year will be sad, and that what happened on Valentine’s Day will be on everyone’s minds during every class of every day. However, he and his friends are determined to preserve the memories of their fallen classmates and teachers, change the school safety at their school, and change school safety nationwide.