Forever changed by 6 awful minutes
Two of the teenagers are headed to Harvard. Two of the adults are fighting for their jobs. But all who rose to prominence in the painful hours and days after a gunman’s brutal rampage at a Florida high school one year ago have been forever transformed.
On Valentine’s Day in 2018, authorities say, Nikolas Cruz walked into the freshman building at sprawling Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a bag containing, among other things, a semiautomatic rifle. The ensuing numbers were excruciating: six minutes of
The shootings “started a journey that we are still witnessing. These kids are still out there, and they have made change.” Kris Brown
President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Students Emma Gonzalez, top left, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg and Alex Wind were determined that their fallen friends and classmates would not be forgotten.
PHOTOS BY AFP/GETTY IMAGES; THE ASSOCIATED PRESS; EPA-EFE
shooting, more than 100 rounds fired, 17 students and staff killed and 17 wounded. Students David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Corin and Alex Wind were among a group who would gather at the home of Cameron Kasky, determined to ensure the deaths of their classmates and friends would not be forgotten.
Thus, the “Never Again MSD” movement was born. The group was a crucial organizer of the National School Walkout of March 14 and, 10 days later, the March for Our Lives that drew more than 1 million people across the nation to rallies for safe schools and an end to gun violence.
“I’ll always care about the issues that face our nation,” Kasky told USA TODAY. “And I will always feel dedicated to helping play a part in solving them.”
The school will mark the anniversary Thursday with a Day of Service and Love. At 10:17 a.m., the entire district and the community is asked to observe a moment of silence.
The shootings “started a journey that we are still witnessing,” said Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “These kids are still out there, and they have made change.”
A look at some of the people thrust into the spotlight by the tragedy:
Kasky was a junior “theater kid” who had just left a drama class when the carnage began. His stature grew a week after the shooting when, during a CNN-hosted town hall, he grilled Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio for his ties to the NRA. “Sen. Rubio, it’s hard to look at you and not look down a barrel of an AR-15 and not look at Nikolas Cruz,” he said. But months later Kasky grew to regret his words and says he wants to encourage bipartisanship.
As for his future, Kasky said, he is “really trying to get into colleges for next year. God knows if it’ll work.”
Gonzalez, 19, was a senior and president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. She rocketed to fame after an electrifying speech in Fort Lauderdale days after the shooting. “We call B.S.” was her recurring theme.
Gonzalez, now attending New College of Florida, was honored by Variety as one of its five 2018 Power of Women. But the fame isn’t the biggest change in her life, she told the magazine. “There are always moments in the day when I get hit with a sadness about the people who have been lost in this tragedy,” she said. “That has directly affected me.”
Hogg was a senior at the school, unsure whether to pursue a career as an engineer or a journalist. He had an internship at the local paper, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He crouched in a dark classroom when the shooting started, then waited for a SWAT team to escort him and others to safety. While waiting, he turned on his phone’s video recorder and narrated the events. He was on “Good Morning America” the next day, and already his pitch for safer schools and gun control was sharpening.
Hogg has written a book with his younger sister Lauren, “#NeverAgain: A New Generation Draws the Line.” In the months after the shooting, Hogg failed to gain admission to UCLA and a few other top schools, and he clashed with the NRA and conservative broadcasters. He took a gap year to fight for youth activism and gun control, and he says will enroll at Harvard in the fall.
Corin, president of the school’s junior class, was hiding in a classroom during the tragedy that would take the life of her good friend Joaquin Oliver. Corin helped drive a social media campaign using the hashtag #WhatIf aimed at ending gun violence. Her own #WhatIf video drew more than 1.5 million views. She also was prime organizer of a “lightning strike” bus trip to the state Capitol, six days after the shooting, that saw scores of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students rally for tighter gun laws.
Corin continues to advocate. She will graduate in the spring and says she will attend Harvard in the fall.
Wind was a junior and drama club member who was among the first students to call out the president. That afternoon, when Trump tweeted condolences to families, Wind responded, “Make stricter gun laws then.”
Wind made a splash days later when he sang the national anthem as part of a tribute to the victims at a Miami Heat basketball game. Now a senior, Wind recently joined other students in a book co-written by the March for Our Lives founders called “Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement.”
“We want to be the ones who tell the story because we were there,” he said. “We know what happened. No one else.”