For­ever changed by 6 aw­ful min­utes

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - J ohn Ba­con USA TO­DAY

Two of the teenagers are headed to Har­vard. Two of the adults are fight­ing 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 rifle. 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.


shoot­ing, more than 100 rounds fired, 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:

Cameron Kasky

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.”

Emma Gon­za­lez

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 five 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 affected me.”

David Hogg

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 fight for youth ac­tivism and gun con­trol, and he says will en­roll at Har­vard in the fall.

Ja­clyn Corin

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.

Alex Wind

Wind was a ju­nior and drama club mem­ber who was among the first 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.”

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