A buzz from University of Florida sophomore Morgan Reilly’s cellphone at 2:25 p.m. sent her into a panic. Her brother texted her family to tell them he was hiding from someone with a gun in the closet of his math class.
For some UF students hailing from Parkland, the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday afternoon isn’t just another school shooting.
It’s the shooting that changed the way they saw their hometown, the city named Florida’s safest in 2017.
“I know everyone always says, ‘Oh, this would never happen here,'” Reilly said, “but this literally was the last place I ever expected to see on the news for something like this. I have never felt unsafe anywhere for any reason and I’ve lived there for 19 years.”
Reilly said her brother, Hunter, won’t admit it, but he is in shock.
“Some of his friends were shot and he doesn’t know who is alive and who is not,” Reilly said. “I’m hoping he will recover fully, but I think he is absolutely traumatized, as is my whole family.”
Freshman Harrison Cohn said had the shooting happened tomorrow, his younger brother might not be alive.
“His class would have been in the freshman building on floor two, where some of the shooting occurred. Not being there today may have saved his life,” Cohn said.
Cohn, a 2017 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, said he doesn’t understand how something like this could happen in Parkland.
“Parkland is the safest place on the planet,” Cohn said.
Sophomore Ashley Page said the safe image of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been ingrained in her mind since she moved across the street from the school. After 10 years of walking past it, she said now she will never see it the same way.
“It’s just weird because Parkland is like the most boring city and it’s so calm and nothing wild ever happens there and this is just so extreme,” said Page. “It’s the last place I ever would’ve thought that would’ve happened.”
Freshman Amanda Futterman attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas until her graduation in 2017. She said if it wasn’t for the heroes of the community, the casualties could have been much worse.
“One teacher locked students in his classroom to save them and a security guard jumped in front of students to block a bullet. It’s people like them who are extraordinary and we are all lucky to have in the world,” said Futterman.
Reilly said her brother said he was not surprised to hear that the suspected gunman was Nikolas Cruz, 19. Others said they never knew him or had even heard of him.
Moving forward, Futterman said Marjory Stoneman Douglas will never look or feel the same again.
“I feel like kids are going to be more scared to go back, even though this isn’t something that really ever happens. They’ve been changed by this and are going to have to learn how to live without worrying again,” said Futterman.
Reilly isn’t the least bit afraid to return to Parkland.
“I’m anxious to get back and hug my family, but I’d be lying if I said this won’t affect me from here on out. I think a lot of people will be looking over their shoulders for a very long time,” said Reilly.
Sandy Hook, Columbine and now Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Cohn said he is in shock that his high school will share the same solemn distinction.
“It sucks my hometown will be known for this when Stoneman Douglas is an amazing school. Filled with endless opportunity and friendships and so much more,” said Cohn.
While there is fear in returning to a place as shaken as Parkland, Futterman said she thinks the school will come back stronger than before.
“It’s going to bring the school together because in times of tragedy people need to stick together to get through it and I know,” Futterman said, “having gone to that school for four years, that positivity will end up on top.”