The aftermath of the school shooting in a small town in Florida is being felt on the Saint Augustine’s University campus.
On February 14, 2018, 31 students and teachers were shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, making this one of the world’s deadliest school shootings. Seventeen people were killed and 14 were injured. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at the high school, was identified and arrested shortly after the shootings.
“This feels personal because I’m from Florida,” said Lindsay Baker, a senior at SAU. “The most developed countries make laws to prevent this from happening again, yet our country has not. It is ridiculous and is mocking the deaths of the innocents.”
Jose Penalver, a freshman, grew up near the area where the shooting took place and even knew some of the kids who were killed. “I got snapchats from my friends cowering on the floor in fear….it was really scary to see,” he said, visibly upset as he spoke shortly after the tragedy. “I knew I couldn’t do anything about it, because I’m hundreds of miles away.”
Saint Augustine’s honored the victims by lowering the flags on campus to half-mast. Students have also participated in various forms of protest, including going downtown to a rally at the at North Carolina Legislature. One class, with the permission of their professor, walked outside and stayed there for 17 minutes, representing the 17 deaths. Other faculty members brought discussions of the shootings into the classroom.
A mass demonstration for gun control is planned across the country on March 24.
Since the shooting, debate has raged around the country about what to do to prevent another tragedy like that from happening. Many have urged Congress and state legislatures to put restrictions on military-style assault weapons, which were used in Parkland and several other mass shootings in recent years. There has been some action, for example the Florida Legislature this week passed a bill raising the legal age for buying rifles, imposing a three-day waiting period on all gun sales and allowing the arming of some school employees. But so far there has been no action on banning these types of weapons, which many of the surviving students at the high school have called for.
Some students say mass shootings raise fears that it could happen anywhere – even here. “That could be our school on the news one day,” said Jonise Holmes, an Elementary Education major.
Howard Q. Walker Jr., a senior business administration major, wants to see action on guns. “They need to be regulated and there need to be restrictions on the type of guns that need to be purchased,” he said. “No one needs their hands on an assault rifle for no purpose.”
Walker added: “This breaks my heart to see high school students lose their lives before they even begin. My heart and prayers go out to all the individuals who are affected by this attack.”
Dakari Hightower, a junior communications major, also was deeply affected by the shootings. “School is supposed to be the place where children can be dropped off by their parents and they don’t have to worry if they see their kid that night,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case anymore.”
Saint Augustine’s University students say they will help to keep pressure on government to do something about guns.
“This is unacceptable,” added Daisha Little, a senior biology major. “Innocent lives are being taking at the hands of people who have no sympathy for human beings…Our children are not protected. She said more gun control laws are needed. “It isn’t being talked about enough! The laws aren’t getting passed and we are skipping over them and saying ‘We’re going to get back to this later.’ ”
This article was based on reporting by Elyscia Vaughn Brown, Lorraine Henderson and Brianna Snipes.