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The Masters School

49 Clinton Avenue Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. 10522

We stand with MSD VOLUME 74, SPECIAL ISSUE

TUESDAY, APRIL 17, 2018

tower.mastersny.org

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eeks after the massacre in Parkland, Florida, the staff of Tower reached out to seven people who survived the events of that day. In this Special Issue, you’ll find stories of the incredible students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity, and you can find interviewer credits are on page 4. We’ve also redesigned our color palette to match the school colors of Douglas.

Voices from Parkland Interviews with survivors of the massacre thought it was an active shooter drill because we had been having rumors we were gonna have a drill soon. We didn’t realize it was real until we started getting texts from people who were actually in the freshman building.

VINCENT ALBAN/TOWER

HEAD OF SCHOOL LAURA DANFORTH observes as students and faculty participate in a walkout on Mar. 14. The walkout was organized to protest inaction on gun violence.

Editorial: Our American horror

F

ifty years ago, after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy quoted Aeschylus to a crowd in Indianapolis: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” Over the last several years that has been our generation’s education on guns. The pain of loss, of terror and of fear has given our generation wisdom. We have a become a generation that does not tolerate disingenuity or opportunism. We have become the Parkland generation. Yet as the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas rolls slowly into the ever-more-distant past, we run the risk of forgetting, of losing our righteous anger. We forgot after after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Aurora, after Newtown, after Charleston, after San Bernardino, after Orlando, after Las Vegas. All evidence suggests this latest tragedy will flit from our memory, leaving only its name to be added to the list: Parkland.

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ut we cannot forget. We must not forget. It is a moral abomination and a vile embarrassment that weapons designed specifically to kill scores of people are sold to civilians. That is simply the unadorned moral truth. There is no real point in wading into the swamp of the gun control “debate,” which is close to a shouting match. One cannot make the willfully ignorant see the truth. We will not bother with the litany of dishonest arguments against gun control. We will not seek to sway “gun rights activists” or seek to rebut every pro-gun canard the NRA peddles. The debate they are involved in—the debate politicians like Donald Trump and Marco Rubio perpetuate—is a dishonest one, an evil one,

VINCENT ALBAN/TOWER

A PILE OF SHIRTS for the March For Our Lives. 200,000 people attended the March.

one that survives at the expense of dozens of new dead each day. This does not mean fixes around the edges and bills concerned with updating databases like the recently-passed FixNICS Act. While such technocratic tweaks are necessary, they don’t pass muster as a real solution and would not have prevented Parkland. And Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s “hardened schools” plan is even worse. Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a remarkably secure school, yet it still saw its students and teachers butchered. Arming teachers won’t solve anything, and will likely make things worse.

It is a moral abomination and a vile embarrassment that weapons designed specifically to kill scores of people in seconds are sold to civilians. These “remedies” are intended to, at best, avoid the crux of our gun crisis—our guns—or, at worst, benefit the same gun manufacturers that have happily lined their pockets by selling killing machines to maniacs. We can’t be a nation of militarized schools, transparent backpacks and military weapons sold like hot dogs. And this solution does not mean the elimination of the Second Amendment. We do not pose an argument about the meaning of “militia” or the intent of James Madison. Any civics student knows that no constitutional right is absolute, and certainly the right to bear arms was not meant to brush up against our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

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nstead, we will simply demand: demand that our leaders do something, and demand they do it now. Here is what we demand: that weapons like the AR-15, devices like bump stocks and ammunition designed to pierce body armor be permanently outlawed for civilian use. That is how to make sure Aaron Feis and Clementa Pinckney died for something. That is how to truly honor the gun-slain Robert Kennedy, who decried, after MLK’s murder, “this mindless menace of violence.” That is how to restore our national dignity. Perhaps the Trump presidency is not the ideal time for this plea. Perhaps we should wait: for a more reasonable Congress, for a less retrograde president. But we will not, cannot, wait. For we hold in our heads the words of King, shot down in the prime of life: “the time is always right to do what is right.”

COURTESY OF KYRAH SIMON

Kyrah Simon Junior

Since it was Valentine’s Day, my main concern was the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend. Girls walked around with roses, balloons, and those life-size teddy bears. I was looking forward to the leadership kids passing out carnations. When the alarm went off, I was finishing an essay for a project, because I didn’t want to have to work on it at home. Since it was the second fire alarm of that day I thought that the staff had burned something. When we lined up, I heard pops and thought they simulated an active shooter drill.

“Since it was Valentine’s Day, my main concern was the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend.”

COURTESY OF JOEY MONDELLI

Joey Mondelli Senior

That day was just a normal day in the morning, it was Valentine’s Day, so I had planned on taking my girlfriend out on a date later that day. Up until the fire alarm went off, I was stress free. When the fire alarm went off, I had just assumed it was a normal fire drill, although I found it weird that it was so late in the day.

“I didn’t think it was real, until I got a text saying, ‘Someone in my class just got shot.’” Even when I heard shots, I didn’t even think it was real, until I got a text saying, “someone in my class just got shot.” I actually was out at the bathroom literally a minute before the fire alarm went off, which is while shots were being fired, but I had ear buds in, so I didn’t hear shots at the time. But as soon as I got back to class the fire alarm went off. When we were outside the classroom, faculty was screaming to get back into our classes, and I turned around to go back to class, I heard about five shots go off. The people that I was with all

COURTESY OF JEFFREY FOSTER

Jeffrey Foster

AP U.S. Government Teacher The day of we had a fire drill that morning and then I’d been telling the kids for weeks that there was going to be a code red or a code black coming up because the administration had been talking about it for a while, even after the fire drill that day (the rest of the periods). I had told the kids, “We might have a live, fake-shooter drill on campus in the next couple of weeks.” When the fire alarm went off, the majority of my students thought it was a fake drill. I think at least on my side of the building, as I was opposite where the killings took place, I think it actually led to a little bit more calm until we got phone calls that said “active shooter.” Then all hell broke loose. Then the people started climbing fences and running and jumping.

“All hell broke loose. Then the people started climbing fences and running and jumping.” My teacher neighbor told me that he thought he’d heard shots, again we weren’t sure if they were real or if they weren’t real. I personally did not hear them.

“It was just pandemonium.” When my brother said there was an active shooter on campus, me and my two colleagues who are responsible for that side of the building stayed behind and made sure everybody escaped, for lack of a better word. Then we walked out to the streets. It was just pandemonium. We were on the street that was parallel to the building, there had to be at that point a hundred cops, and cops were coming from every corner of the world at that point. I hate to use the word surreal, but it was one of the most surreal moments of my life. It was unimaginable, it was indescribable. It felt like a brain-wipe, just a bad dream.

Aly Sheehy Senior

The fire alarm went off and we thought it was very weird since it was COURTESY OF ALY SHEEHY 15, 20 minutes till the end of class. We all walked outside and saw running and screaming. And we thought “Oh, maybe this is a real fire. Maybe we should walk a little faster.” The administrators were outside and yelling at us to turn back inside the building, and we just followed their instructions and went back into the auditorium.

“I had friends who I’d gone to school with my entire life break down and start crying.” For those first ten minutes, I think everybody thought it was a drill until people started getting messages from our friends inside that building saying “this is real” and we were sent messages that said, “are you OK?” It’s hard being in that situation as I had friends who I’d gone to school with my entire life break down and start crying and seeing people text their mothers “I love you” or their parents texting them “I love you if you don’t make it, if you don’t make it, just know I love you.”

Becca Schneid Junior

It was Valentine’s Day, so I was going out with my significant other, and ALI SMITH, COURTESY the day seemed OF BECCA SCHNEID normal. In the yearbook, they’re devoting two pages just to Valentine’s Day because it was a beautiful day.

“Then we heard screams of ‘Code Red.’” I was in class with my newspaper crew, and the fire alarm went off, and at this point it was because [the shooter] had fired so many rounds that the smoke caused the alarm to go off. But we had no idea what was going on when the fire alarm went off. Then we heard screams of “Code Red” and “go back to your rooms,” so I ran to our newspaper room. We crouched in the corners. Then we started hearing sirens and helicopters, and that was when we kind of realized that this was a real thing. Then my teacher had us move into the corner and put us into the photo closet of the newspaper room, and so 20 of us huddled in there and over time, we started to hear more, but we still didn’t know whether we were safe.


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SPECIAL REPORT

SPECIAL REPORT

TOWER/APRIL 17, 2018

3

The reckoning: Stoneman Douglas faces the future “IT’S LIKE A DREAM TO ME” STUDENTS LEAD THE WAY AT THE MARCH FOR OUR LIVES Becca Schneid

Aly Sheehy

It was just absolutely incredible. I didn’t even know the amount of people that were there until at the end when they put the camera view on the big screen and showed how many people were actually on the street and it was just one of those moments like “Wow.” It was really interesting and empowering to see the amount of people behind us in our push for change, because people constantly told us that a march isn’t going to change anything, but goddamnit, that isn’t true.

People constantly told us that a march isn’t going to change anything, but goddamnit, that isn’t true. We know a march is going to make immediate change. A march is a representation for lawmakers and policymakers and people in power to show how many people are behind us in what we’re doing, and that is creating change. It’s such a powerful statement because it shows that people are actually wanting to vote for this type of thing.

You’ve never seen that kind of demonstration in regards to gun control, and not just gun control, but also in regards to the leadership of youth. This is something that we’ve never really seen before, and the support has just been phenomenal and insane. I think that you’ve already seen, and you’re already seeing, change, and even though, obviously, there hasn’t been enough change legislatively yet, that’s something that, for sure, we all recognize. It’s not enough, it’s not cutting it. We’re going to have to—and that the focal point of the March—utilize our right to vote because we can’t change anything. The people in power aren’t going to listen to us—a lot of these politicians rely on the fact that younger people aren’t going to vote—so once we utilize our right to vote, then change is certainly possible, and I think it will happen.

Melissa Falkowski I think that this is definitely longterm. It has been so successful because what they have said has resonated with the nation. I think there are so many people that in one way

or another have been affected by gun violence that to hear these kids articulate what a lot of people feel and what some politicians are unwilling to address touches people somehow at the core. And that’s why this is so different and so special, because I don’t think the kids are gonna give up, and, because they’re so young, and because they were so able to articulate what they want for change, I think people identified with them in a really important way.

Joey Mondelli It was simply amazing. All the support America is giving us is insane and it’s like a dream to me. Seeing so many people in Washington was so heart-warming knowing they all stand behind us on our path to making our futures better.

Jeffrey Foster Our kids are not just for Douglas, they are for Chicago, for Washington D.C., Los Angeles. They don’t want gun violence anywhere.

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“HIS JOB WAS TO PROTECT US”

Photo 1: SEVERAL ADULT PROTESTERS AT the March For Our Lives sit with their signs. Though youth were well-represented at the protest, many adults attended. Vincent Alban/Tower Photo 2: SEVERAL MASTERS STUDENTS HOLD signs at the New York March For Our Lives. A large delegation from the School attended. Ellen Cowhey/Tower Photo 3: A POLICE OFFICER WALKS by a barrier. In front of him, a group of protesters wave their signs at the Washington March. Vincent Alban/Tower Photo 4: A WOMAN CRIES AS she holds a sign at the Washington March. The sign reads “Keep Our Children Safe.” Vincent Alban/Tower Photo 5: A YOUNG GIRL STANDS at the Washington March. She wears a button supporting the pro-gun control Brady Campaign. Vincent Alban/Tower

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“HOW THE HELL IS DAVID HOGG GOING TO PREP FOR HIS AP TESTS?” STONEMAN DOUGLAS ACADEMICS AFTER TRAGEDY

Melissa Falkowski

It’s hard to even assign a due date for something because how do you say, “I’m going to collect this in a week,” and then you have kids who are totally unready for that and then you have kids who are like, “I need something to do.” It’s very challenging.

Jeffrey Foster

In my geography class, we are not doing much. In AP, some of my kids are so involved in the movement that I will do a little review, and then we will just devolve into discussion about what’s going on. I told them that when we get back from spring break we are going to push and push and push. That’s going to be difficult, because some of these kids are so occupied. We are having town halls next week, organized by David Hogg. How the hell is David going to prep for his four or five AP classes? We are striving to make it normal, but normal for us is not what it was before February 14 obviously. It is very difficult to hold some of these kids accountable for studying and grades. So,

instead of giving practice exams individually, I might do them in groups. It’s a little less stressful for them. I’m not that concerned about

Whatever grades they get will be good enough for us this year. their grades. I am more concerned about their mental health right now. I assume that this will be my lowest pass percentage on the AP test in a lot of years, even though I have these amazing kids. We have lost four weeks of school now. The first week back we built puzzles, and we talked, and we played UNO while organizing the trip to the March. Whatever grades they get will be good enough for us this year.

Joey Mondelli In my classes we’ve been doing really easy work recently, but the first couple weeks of being back all we did was sit around doing coloring books, playing card games and watching movies.

COURTESY OF MELISSA FALKOWSKI

Darren Levine

We had board games, cards, UNO and different kinds of activities that they could do. We would talk about our feelings, what we were experiencing, because we’re the only ones who could understand it, together.

COURTESY OF DARREN LEVINE

MELISSA FALKOWSKI (above) AND DARREN LEVINE (below) teach at MSD. She teaches English and journalism, and he teaches English and Holocaust history.

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“THERE ARE TEACHERS WHO SHIELDED STUDENTS WITH THEIR BODIES.” - Becca Schneid 3

MSD CONFRONTS SECURITY

Aly Sheehy

The school resource officer’s job was to protect us and the students, and he didn’t do that, or try. It was happening and it was my friends in there. Some could still be alive if he went in. But it was an AR-15 that shoots off 100 rounds per minute and the shooter did it in six minutes. The officer was probably thinking about his family.

Becca Schneid

There are teachers who shielded their students with their bodies—and that something that no teacher should have to do—and there are teachers who went above and beyond, who did that while a school resource officer stood outside not doing anything.

Darren Levine It’s something that I’ve spoken about to my students since I became a teacher— because of the possibility of something terrible happening, we have to keep our doors locked.

Jeffrey Foster If we can afford to pay teachers, why don’t we train or even get officers in town to volunteer once a week just to be an extra presence on campus?

Kyrah Simon Clear backpacks are the illusion of safety.

Joey Mondelli I think the clear backpacks is like trying to put a bandage on a broken bone.

Melissa Falkowski Some things I think are helpful. I think that having the police present at the entry points is helpful: I think it acts as a deterrent and it makes people feel better. I have not seen a single student so far that is on board with the idea of clear backpacks. It raises concerns for them, especially female students, who are like, “Why do I have to put things in a clear backpack? What if I’m having my period and all these people are seeing my feminine products?” I think it’s a constant reminder, “Why am I carrying around this clear backpack? Oh, it’s because of what happened.” I think that is a false sense of security, because I don’t see what it solves.

“PASSING THE MICROPHONE” BLACK LIVES MATTER AFTER THE MASSACRE Kyrah Simon

Black and brown individuals in underprivileged communities experience routine gun violence and never have an article dedicated to them. White America only sees gun violence as an issue when it affects white communities. Black Lives Matter activists have been fighting for gun reform with no result, while Parkland kids now have almost celebrity statuses, which was never the case with Black Lives Matter activists.

White America only sees gun violence as an issue when it affects white communities. I liked that they tried to be inclusive with the speakers. I thought Naomi Wadler was amazing, especially since she’s so young.

But I also think that it shouldn’t take an eleven-year-old to get people to understand that the deaths of black youth is a major issue. I think there’s been hypocrisy in the attention we are getting as Parkland students for leading a movement to protect human lives and the fact that we are seen as heroes while Black Lives Matter activists were arrested and seen as violent. I think increasing the amount of armed student resource officers is ridiculous. They only serve to criminalize minority youth who are already marginalized since there are so few of us. An important step moving forward is passing the microphone onto those who haven’t been able to speak out before. We need to work towards amplifying the voices of those affected by routine gun violence and become aware of our tendency to silence minority voices in conversations.


2

SPECIAL REPORT

SPECIAL REPORT

TOWER/APRIL 17, 2018

3

The reckoning: Stoneman Douglas faces the future “IT’S LIKE A DREAM TO ME” STUDENTS LEAD THE WAY AT THE MARCH FOR OUR LIVES Becca Schneid

Aly Sheehy

It was just absolutely incredible. I didn’t even know the amount of people that were there until at the end when they put the camera view on the big screen and showed how many people were actually on the street and it was just one of those moments like “Wow.” It was really interesting and empowering to see the amount of people behind us in our push for change, because people constantly told us that a march isn’t going to change anything, but goddamnit, that isn’t true.

People constantly told us that a march isn’t going to change anything, but goddamnit, that isn’t true. We know a march is going to make immediate change. A march is a representation for lawmakers and policymakers and people in power to show how many people are behind us in what we’re doing, and that is creating change. It’s such a powerful statement because it shows that people are actually wanting to vote for this type of thing.

You’ve never seen that kind of demonstration in regards to gun control, and not just gun control, but also in regards to the leadership of youth. This is something that we’ve never really seen before, and the support has just been phenomenal and insane. I think that you’ve already seen, and you’re already seeing, change, and even though, obviously, there hasn’t been enough change legislatively yet, that’s something that, for sure, we all recognize. It’s not enough, it’s not cutting it. We’re going to have to—and that the focal point of the March—utilize our right to vote because we can’t change anything. The people in power aren’t going to listen to us—a lot of these politicians rely on the fact that younger people aren’t going to vote—so once we utilize our right to vote, then change is certainly possible, and I think it will happen.

Melissa Falkowski I think that this is definitely longterm. It has been so successful because what they have said has resonated with the nation. I think there are so many people that in one way

or another have been affected by gun violence that to hear these kids articulate what a lot of people feel and what some politicians are unwilling to address touches people somehow at the core. And that’s why this is so different and so special, because I don’t think the kids are gonna give up, and, because they’re so young, and because they were so able to articulate what they want for change, I think people identified with them in a really important way.

Joey Mondelli It was simply amazing. All the support America is giving us is insane and it’s like a dream to me. Seeing so many people in Washington was so heart-warming knowing they all stand behind us on our path to making our futures better.

Jeffrey Foster Our kids are not just for Douglas, they are for Chicago, for Washington D.C., Los Angeles. They don’t want gun violence anywhere.

1

2

“HIS JOB WAS TO PROTECT US”

Photo 1: SEVERAL ADULT PROTESTERS AT the March For Our Lives sit with their signs. Though youth were well-represented at the protest, many adults attended. Vincent Alban/Tower Photo 2: SEVERAL MASTERS STUDENTS HOLD signs at the New York March For Our Lives. A large delegation from the School attended. Ellen Cowhey/Tower Photo 3: A POLICE OFFICER WALKS by a barrier. In front of him, a group of protesters wave their signs at the Washington March. Vincent Alban/Tower Photo 4: A WOMAN CRIES AS she holds a sign at the Washington March. The sign reads “Keep Our Children Safe.” Vincent Alban/Tower Photo 5: A YOUNG GIRL STANDS at the Washington March. She wears a button supporting the pro-gun control Brady Campaign. Vincent Alban/Tower

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“HOW THE HELL IS DAVID HOGG GOING TO PREP FOR HIS AP TESTS?” STONEMAN DOUGLAS ACADEMICS AFTER TRAGEDY

Melissa Falkowski

It’s hard to even assign a due date for something because how do you say, “I’m going to collect this in a week,” and then you have kids who are totally unready for that and then you have kids who are like, “I need something to do.” It’s very challenging.

Jeffrey Foster

In my geography class, we are not doing much. In AP, some of my kids are so involved in the movement that I will do a little review, and then we will just devolve into discussion about what’s going on. I told them that when we get back from spring break we are going to push and push and push. That’s going to be difficult, because some of these kids are so occupied. We are having town halls next week, organized by David Hogg. How the hell is David going to prep for his four or five AP classes? We are striving to make it normal, but normal for us is not what it was before February 14 obviously. It is very difficult to hold some of these kids accountable for studying and grades. So,

instead of giving practice exams individually, I might do them in groups. It’s a little less stressful for them. I’m not that concerned about

Whatever grades they get will be good enough for us this year. their grades. I am more concerned about their mental health right now. I assume that this will be my lowest pass percentage on the AP test in a lot of years, even though I have these amazing kids. We have lost four weeks of school now. The first week back we built puzzles, and we talked, and we played UNO while organizing the trip to the March. Whatever grades they get will be good enough for us this year.

Joey Mondelli In my classes we’ve been doing really easy work recently, but the first couple weeks of being back all we did was sit around doing coloring books, playing card games and watching movies.

COURTESY OF MELISSA FALKOWSKI

Darren Levine

We had board games, cards, UNO and different kinds of activities that they could do. We would talk about our feelings, what we were experiencing, because we’re the only ones who could understand it, together.

COURTESY OF DARREN LEVINE

MELISSA FALKOWSKI (above) AND DARREN LEVINE (below) teach at MSD. She teaches English and journalism, and he teaches English and Holocaust history.

4

“THERE ARE TEACHERS WHO SHIELDED STUDENTS WITH THEIR BODIES.” - Becca Schneid 3

MSD CONFRONTS SECURITY

Aly Sheehy

The school resource officer’s job was to protect us and the students, and he didn’t do that, or try. It was happening and it was my friends in there. Some could still be alive if he went in. But it was an AR-15 that shoots off 100 rounds per minute and the shooter did it in six minutes. The officer was probably thinking about his family.

Becca Schneid

There are teachers who shielded their students with their bodies—and that something that no teacher should have to do—and there are teachers who went above and beyond, who did that while a school resource officer stood outside not doing anything.

Darren Levine It’s something that I’ve spoken about to my students since I became a teacher— because of the possibility of something terrible happening, we have to keep our doors locked.

Jeffrey Foster If we can afford to pay teachers, why don’t we train or even get officers in town to volunteer once a week just to be an extra presence on campus?

Kyrah Simon Clear backpacks are the illusion of safety.

Joey Mondelli I think the clear backpacks is like trying to put a bandage on a broken bone.

Melissa Falkowski Some things I think are helpful. I think that having the police present at the entry points is helpful: I think it acts as a deterrent and it makes people feel better. I have not seen a single student so far that is on board with the idea of clear backpacks. It raises concerns for them, especially female students, who are like, “Why do I have to put things in a clear backpack? What if I’m having my period and all these people are seeing my feminine products?” I think it’s a constant reminder, “Why am I carrying around this clear backpack? Oh, it’s because of what happened.” I think that is a false sense of security, because I don’t see what it solves.

“PASSING THE MICROPHONE” BLACK LIVES MATTER AFTER THE MASSACRE Kyrah Simon

Black and brown individuals in underprivileged communities experience routine gun violence and never have an article dedicated to them. White America only sees gun violence as an issue when it affects white communities. Black Lives Matter activists have been fighting for gun reform with no result, while Parkland kids now have almost celebrity statuses, which was never the case with Black Lives Matter activists.

White America only sees gun violence as an issue when it affects white communities. I liked that they tried to be inclusive with the speakers. I thought Naomi Wadler was amazing, especially since she’s so young.

But I also think that it shouldn’t take an eleven-year-old to get people to understand that the deaths of black youth is a major issue. I think there’s been hypocrisy in the attention we are getting as Parkland students for leading a movement to protect human lives and the fact that we are seen as heroes while Black Lives Matter activists were arrested and seen as violent. I think increasing the amount of armed student resource officers is ridiculous. They only serve to criminalize minority youth who are already marginalized since there are so few of us. An important step moving forward is passing the microphone onto those who haven’t been able to speak out before. We need to work towards amplifying the voices of those affected by routine gun violence and become aware of our tendency to silence minority voices in conversations.


4

SPECIAL ISSUE

TOWER/APRIL 17, 2018

In Parkland, reverberations of the past “People didn’t think it could happen again” A survivor remembers Virginia Tech

According to The Washington Post, there are currently 187,000 survivors of gun violence since Columbine. Though they have gone through immense amounts of trauma, many lead normal lives. One of these survivors is Brendon Barrios, a history teacher and an engaged member of the Masters School community. Barrios attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as Virginia Tech, in 2007. On April 16 of that year, a gunman murdered 32 people in two separate shootings on the school’s campus. At the time, it was the largest shooting carried out by a single gunman in American history. The first shooting occurred at 7:15 a.m. in the West Ambler Johnston Hall, a residence hall that housed Barrios in his freshman year at Virginia Tech.

The morning of I had an 8:00 a.m. class that day. I was woken up by my roommate. It was 7:00-7:30, it was early, and he had said to me, “Yo, did you hear the gunshots this morning?” And I said, “No, why?” and I thought he was just messing with me. And he said, “No, man, there were actually gunshots this morning.” They sent an email saying that there had been a shooting on the campus and we were just supposed to go about our day. So, as I started to get up, I checked my email, and sure enough there had been an email that said that there had been a shooting, but we were supposed to proceed with our day.

“We were still supposed to proceed with our day.” The way that my dorm was set up was like a giant “H,” so there was a left side and a right side, and there was a crossover bridge on each floor. I was on the left side, and the first shooting in the morning happened on the right side, in my dorm. My roommate heard the gunshots that morning because he was up. Before I left, I checked my email again and I had gotten an email stating that there had been a second shooting on campus, but the email said the two shootings weren’t related. And we were still supposed to proceed with our day. I was not going to go to class because it seemed like something was going on, and so I waited around for a professor to cancel. This is now past 8:00 a.m., and then we got another email, a third one, saying that there was an active shooter on campus and that we were to remain in our dorm. We got three emails, one about the first shooting, saying to proceed; the second that there was a second shooter, unrelated, and we were to proceed and the third email that there was an active shooter and we were to remain in place.

No online news available

There was no text alert system at the time like there is now. We have K-12 alert here at Masters. There was no K-12 alert at Virginia Tech. There were a lot of people who saw the first email and went to class. Then, there was another group of people who saw the second email and still went to class. I was just lucky that I kept refreshing my email. I saw the third email, so I didn’t leave. But, there were a lot of kids that only saw one email, and said, “OK, I’m just going to go about my day

VINCENT ALBAN/TOWER

BRENDON BARRIOS’S TATTOO COMMEMORATES the Virginia Tech shooting of April 2007. The school’s motto, Ut Prosim (“That I May Serve”), is written across the “T” in his tattoo. normally.” Guys were like, “I’m sure it’s nothing; whatever.” My roommate went across the hall and started watching a movie with his buddy. One of my best friends came down to my room. But then what was weird was when my buddy said, “Turn on the local news.” There were local news stations covering the story that there had been a shooting on campus. And I thought, “Wow, this is big news. People are really covering this.” And then I started flipping through the stations, and I saw it come on every channel: NBC, CBS, all the local channels. Then I got to CNN, and CNN had started covering it. What was ironic was that we stopped getting emails from the school after the one that said to hunker down. We were getting all our updates from the news on the television. And they started to report out the death numbers. The first number was three deaths. Then seven deaths. Then it was like 13 deaths.

“I started failing all my classes, sleeping all the time.” Social media wasn’t what it is today. Facebook, you had to have a college account. It wasn’t a news source yet and Twitter wasn’t around yet. Instagram wasn’t around yet. We weren’t really getting updates except what was happening on TV. We weren’t able to look at anything online. Nobody was posting videos. But we were getting the news stations who were getting cell phone videos. So they were showing cell phone videos on CNN.

Buried trauma

When you’re young, and 18, a freshman, and you’re coming out of your senior year of high school, you think you’re invincible. You think you have your whole life ahead of you. And here I was, experiencing this major tragedy, and it changes you, because now you think about your own mortality. You think about loss. What was surreal was that I didn’t take the time to process it in the way that I needed to after it happened.

SOPHIA BROUSSET/TOWER

This issue is in memory of Alyssa Alhadeff, 14 Scott Beigel, 35 Martin Duque, 14 Nicholas Dworet, 17 Aaron Feis, 37 Jaime Guttenberg, 14 Chris Hixon, 49 Luke Hoyer, 15 Cara Loughran, 14 Gina Montalto, 14 Joaquin Oliver, 17

Alaina Petty, 14 Meadow Pollack, 18 Helena Ramsay, 17 Alex Schachter, 14 Carmen Schentrup, 16 Peter Wang, 15 ...and all victims of gun violence.

I just buried it. It ended up catching up to me in my junior year. I ended up suffering from PTSD and had to drop out of school because of it. It changed my life in a really big way. I started to think, “Why wasn’t it me who had that class in there? What if I hadn’t read my emails? Would it have been me?” It started to make me think, in my junior year, before I dropped out, about the big picture things. What’s more important—this test that I need to study for or making memories with my friends? So I was making life choices, thinking every day I was going to die. So, if I’m going to die, I don’t want to live my life for this quiz. So I started failing all my classes, sleeping all the time, a lot of things that weren’t healthy. I had to fight my way back into finding balance between being grateful for everyday and also respecting the long-term goals in life.

No one listened

People didn’t think that it could happen again. So the response for gun control was a group of us that were talking about gun violence at the time. But if you could go back, and had seen the response that people who were proponents of gun control then received, you would have been mortified. Because people just said, “This is a one-off. It’s not about guns—it’s about mental health.” And so we were laughed off the face of the earth.

“People just said, ‘This is a one-off. It’s not about guns— it’s about mental health.’” There was no seriousness with which people were interested in hearing about gun control. And so we all kind of shut up, really. Now that it’s happened so many times, we look back at America and say, if only you could take what happened to us and used it as a warning. It didn’t have to happen so many times for there to be change. As terrible as all these things have been, it has awakened a consciousness in America. For that, I’m grateful. There is hope that this doesn’t have to keep happening. It took Parkland for somebody to realize enough is enough. I hope that this movement is about everybody who suffered from gun violence. It’s about all the people who have fallen victim to gun violence. It’s not just about Parkland. Parkland is the iceberg sticking out of the water, but under the water is all of us who have fallen victim to this terrible thing.

◄ A VIRGINIA TECH SHRINE located in VINCENT ALBAN/TOWER

Barrios’s Thompson Dorm apartment.

Thank you To our inTerviewees and inTerviewers:

A lexAndrA Bentzien Melissa Falkowski C edAr Berrol-Y oung B rendon B arrios S ophiA BrouSSet k yrah s iMon e lijAh e merY B ecca s chneid

SArAh FABer d arren l evine e mmA luiS J oey Mondelli drew SChott a ly s heehy j ACoB S trier J eFFrey Foster

THANK YOU TO OUR SPECIAL ISSUE CONTRIBUTORS: VinCent AlBAn mAtthew Browne ellen CowheY dAVid okS Annie ruBinSon george weed henrY williAmS

Tower Parkland Special Issue 2017-2018  
Tower Parkland Special Issue 2017-2018  

Originally published April 17th, 2018.

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