Poetry, film, maps parkland students quietly process trauma – ap news – breaking news gas 78 industries


PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — When freshman Eden Hebron wanted to capture the searing experience of being in a classroom where a fellow student killed her best friend and three other people, she turned to poetry. The result was "1216," named after the number of the room at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:

The community at Marjory Stoneman Douglas has become best-known for the handful of charismatic students who have channeled their grief and outrage over the Feb. 14 shooting to reignite the national debate on gun control. But most of the 3,000-plus students are coming to terms with the trauma in quieter ways — writing poetry, filming documentaries, reconstructing the crime scene and trying to balance their memories with the need to move on.

The attack that ultimately claimed 17 lives began in the hallway outside Hebron’s honors English class. No one had time to take cover. Two of her slain classmates had tried to hide under the same classroom table that shielded her. In the shower, she sometimes still feels as trapped as she did that day, when she witnessed the death of her best friend, 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff.

The poem helped her persuade her older brothers, who are among Marjory Stoneman Douglas‘ leading advocates for gun control, to include her in their advocacy with the Never Again group; they initially excluded her, trying to protect her from the online trolling they were experiencing.

But there is little that is normal about attending class with clear backpacks, armed guards and checkpoints where students must show ID badges. "I’m going to be in this school for three more years and I don’t want to be sitting here in silence," Deitsch said.

A student-led project "Stories Untold" is recording details from the shooting in video interviews. Project member Giuliana Matamoros, a junior, said the gun control movement that now seems headquartered in Parkland needs more voices to be successful.

Junior Ivanna Paitan has conducted "investigations" with classmates in her Advanced Placement Psychology class, where she had been trapped by gunfire under her teacher’s podium. In long discussions, sometimes during class time, students delve into every detail of the mass shooting again and again, trying to figure out exactly what happened, and why.

Their investigations have produced a reconstruction of part of the crime scene — a hand-drawn layout of Room 1213, with squares illustrating desks, tables and other classroom fixtures. Dotted lines cross most of the page, beginning at the classroom door in one corner and covering most of the desks, illustrating the spray of bullets that trapped Paitan, injured three of her classmates and killed a fourth student.

Paitan carries the image on her phone and displays it as the easiest way to relate what happened to her. She said she sometimes dreams that she is caught in another shooting at school, scrambling to hide from approaching gunfire with her friends yet again.

Grady has found little ways to keep her friend’s memory close, such as wearing a lip gloss Helena gave her every day. Helena got her hooked on wearing fuzzy socks, so Samantha has a drawer full of them. She still listens to the K-pop songs that Helena introduced her to.

"I don’t really know what drives me to keep going to school. The person who I am now is definitely different than the person I was before — not only, like, mentally, but, like, study-wise," Grady said. "I guess it’s just the fact that I’ve got to do it. In order to help me do better in life, I’ve just got to push through."

Talking on a sunny, breezy day in a Coral Springs park, it was easier for Grady to slip back into the moments right after the shooting, when she was being treated at a hospital and still hoping her friend had miraculously survived. She had sung the hymn "God Will Take Care of You" to comfort herself then, and she hit its high notes without faltering while singing the first two verses in a recent interview.

Schacter’s seat had been left open in the rehearsals for the spring concert, a performance of "Southern Hymn," which evokes "Amazing Grace" with its slow swelling of horns that seems to gently pull listeners forward through waves of grief. After a few weeks, the empty chair made practices too difficult and it was removed to help the students focus.

"It’s hard to comprehend that he’s not going to come in tomorrow and say, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ That he’s never coming back ever again," Leavy said. "I just think about playing the piece as best as I can and I put everything else out of my mind."