This article was originally published as a letter to the editor in the University of South Florida’s student newspaper, The Oracle. The writer graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2016. It is reposted here with permission.
I come to you all today with a heavy heart and an infuriated soul. On Wednesday, February 14, I was walking out of my apartment in Tampa to go to class. My friend Caitlyn stopped me in my tracks to show me something that her mother sent her. The headline read, “Shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; Parkland, Florida.”
I stopped in my tracks, unsure of how to react. I then walked on, unbelieving of what I’d read. What are you supposed to do when the place you spent four years of your life in is “under attack?” They didn’t teach me that in school.
Once I got to my class I tuned on the live feed, plugged in my headphones and watched as my professor lectured in the background. This was around 3:30 p.m., so word had not gotten around to everyone quite yet. The live feed was interrupted by a phone call from my brother in California. “Zoe, did you hear about Douglas?”
“Yeah, I’m watching the live feed now.”
“Are you okay?”
To this, I said, “Of course.” It definitely had not hit me yet. I got off the phone and went to go home. Then the numbers came out. Seventeen students and teachers were killed in a school I graduated from less than two years ago.
Writing this five days later, I thought waiting would help. I believed I would be able to calm down and clear my head before sharing my thoughts and feelings on this issue. Boy, was I wrong.
I went to a vigil in Tampa on Wednesday night, Feb. 14. Talking about what happened and reminiscing with MSD alum about our time in high school finally made it real for me. My home had been hit. My community, attacked. The place I felt so safe in was the place where 17 people were murdered.
It’s one thing seeing videos of shootings unrelated to yourself and saying, “Oh my God, that is awful.” It’s another thing seeing videos of shootings inside classrooms and auditoriums that you remember sitting, learning and laughing in. You don’t fully understand until you have no choice but to understand.
This past weekend, I went to Nashville with my family for the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. While I should have been focused solely on her, I was sick to my stomach the entire trip. I felt uneasy, like I needed to do something. Talking to my family I expressed how I felt like there was nothing I could do. I’m no politician. I’m no yellow-haired male living in a big white house. What was there for me to do? What I had learned was so much.
There are petitions, marches, rallies, protests, social media posts and so, so much more. For those of you on college campuses, you are in one of the best places to make things happen. You have 30,000+ people you could easily reach.