ANALYSIS: Florida shooting survivors are angry, and they want you to know it
In my three years reporting on the U.S. for Global News I’ve personally covered four mass shootings — two of them stand as the worst in modern American history.
Unfortunately, there have been several other large-scale massacres in that time. They’ve come to happen that often.
As a reporter, it can start to seem like a sickening wash-rinse-repeat cycle of immense grief, sadness, heroism and trauma, which ultimately results in no measurable changes to prevent the same thing from happening all over again somewhere else.
But the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., feels different. The people here aren’t just sad or shaken. They’re angry, and they want you to know it.
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They’re angry because mass shootings and school shootings have not only become normalized, they have come to be expected. It’s made worse by the feeling that no one is doing anything to stop it. Frustration and horror have made them unfortunately wise beyond their years.
Standing behind the police tape, outside the school, I met a student named Tyra Hemans. Less than 24 hours earlier Hemans heard the first pop of a gunshot ring out. She knew something wasn’t right, and so she ran to safety. Only later did she learn that several of her friends, and one of her favourite teachers, did not make it out alive.
And so Hemans came to keep a lone vigil outside her own school, with a poster board bearing pictures of the people she had lost — and a message about how America needs to do better for its children.
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“He was 19 years old and he was able to walk into a gun shop and able to purchase a military firearm,” she said of shooter Nikolas Cruz. “(He) took souls before they could even blink.”
She lamented, wondering why anyone needed the kind of firepower that comes with an AR-15 rifle, and why no one stopped the troubled ex-student from owning one.
Another student named David Hogg told me about the heroic teachers who saved lives by pulling students into classrooms and hiding them in closets. He praised his teachers, but said it was “disgusting” they had to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the kids. “We shouldn’t need heroes. It’s absolutely disgusting.”
High School students are supposed to be hopelessly optimistic. They have not yet been hardened by the realities of adult life. They’re supposed to think they can change the world, and believe that anything is possible.
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But these students have grown up in a world where they practice what to do when there’s a gunman in the classroom, and where the fear of one appearing is based on an unfortunate reality.
Talk about growing up fast.
“It’s really heartbreaking because school should be a place you feel secure,” explained student Hannah Carbocci, who spent Wednesday afternoon hiding from the gunman under her teacher’s desk.
What stood out in Hemans’ vivid description of the massacre was her sense that those moments of panic and terror felt somehow familiar, even though she’d never experienced them before.
“I felt like I was living one of the tragedies we see every single day,” she explained.
That’s an awful indictment of the world in which these students now live. They’re so afraid of what might happen that they’ve come to expect it, and they already know how it’s going to feel.
No wonder they feel like the decision makers who might have done something to prevent this have let them down.
No wonder they’re angry.
Jackson Proskow is Washington Bureau Chief for Global National.
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