In this Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, photo, Brianna Fisher, 16, left, Leni Steinhardt, 16, center, and Brianna Jesionowski sit during an interview with The Associated Press about a new book called “Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories,” in Parkland, Fla. Students and teachers from the Florida school where 17 died in February‚Äôs high school massacre wrote the raw, poignant book about living through the tragedy. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

‘I still weep’: Parkland survivors write book on shooting

Book by 43 students and teachers who lived through high school massacre gives a raw recap

“Parkland Speaks: Survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas Share Their Stories” needed to be written, its authors believe, but wish desperately it hadn’t.

The book by 43 students and teachers who lived through February’s high school massacre gives a poignant, raw, and sometimes graphic look into the six-minute shooting spree where 17 died and its aftermath as a well-off Fort Lauderdale suburb suddenly found itself mourning in a global spotlight that has dimmed but will never reach black.

“I lost my sense of innocence. I lost my sense of security. I lost my ability to see the world as I had only hours earlier. I would give anything to go back,” wrote journalism teacher Sarah Lerner, who edited the 192-page paperback of essays, poems, photos and art published Tuesday by Crown Books for Young Readers.

Lerner and three student contributors gathered recently in a park a mile from the school to talk about the tragedy and how the book helped them cope as a veneer of normalcy returns weeks before the anniversary. Nearby, a few dozen special education students practiced yoga, helped by Stoneman Douglas volunteers. A skater zipped past. Elementary kids noisily played soccer.

READ MORE: 7,000 pairs of shoes laid out in Washington, D.C., to honour kids killed by gun violence

The poet

“How many did he kill? After hours of no sleep, my eyes slip shut, as I still weep, there is a feeling in my gut, I wake up screaming, the memories haunt my head” – Brianna Jesionowski in her poem, “First Night.”

Jesionowski’s English class was ending when shots rang out just outside on the first floor of the three-story freshman building. The gunman fired down the hallway with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and through windows into classrooms, but not hers. He then climbed the stairs, killing as he went.

But Jesionowski and her classmates didn’t know it was real. There had been rumours that the school would hold an active-shooter drill with blank guns and drama students portraying victims.

“We thought it was weird – we had never been through anything like this,” she said. Even after police evacuated her class and she exited through a blood-filled hallway, she said her mind wouldn’t accept the reality until she met her older sister, Kaitlyn, whose hands were bloody from comforting a girl as she died.

She began writing poems before she was asked to contribute to the book – it’s how she copes. Several are featured.

“I had so many different feelings. I was confused. My sister gave me good advice to write it down and sort through it,” she said.

The letter writer

“My name is Leni Steinhardt and I am a survivor of a school shooting. That is a sentence no sixteen-year-old should have to write” – Leni Steinhardt in her essay, “Dear Senator Marco Rubio.”

The letter, which Steinhardt also sent Congress members, details the terror she felt as she called her parents to say she loved them in case she never got another chance. How her brother lost a friend. It asks a pointed question: “What are you and the rest of the government doing to prevent this from happening again?”

“It was important that he heard it from me because I was angered after the shooting,” Steinhardt said. “I really didn’t have anyone to go to after this. My parents never lived through a shooting. My grandparents didn’t know. There really wasn’t anyone in my life who could answer these questions.”

She said Rubio responded, agreeing changes are needed but gave no specifics.

The photographer

The photo shows three girls hugging tight in a Stoneman Douglas walkway, their eyes closed. Are they frightened? Mourning? No. Brianna Fisher took the photo long before the shooting on a first day of school of friends happy to see each other. She posted it on Instagram shortly after the shooting to show what school should be, not what it had become.

For her, the book represents what her schoolmates experienced – and she and the other contributors have a major responsibility.

“Not every student is going to be speaking to the press or writing something – it needs to be an accurate presentation,” Fisher said.

The teacher

For Lerner, like everyone, it had been a normal day. In her classroom across from the freshman building, she’d quizzed students on George Orwell’s book “1984,” dropping chocolate kisses on their desks so they wouldn’t think her a “total monster” for interrupting their Valentine’s Day. She posted a selfie of the red leggings she wore for the occasion. During the shooting, she and some students huddled until SWAT officers found them and led them away.

She said the book has helped her and the students heal.

“We went through this together and we are going to get through this together,” she said.

Terry Spencer, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Car crash causes traffic delays along Highway 97

An accident has been reported on Highway 97 and Leathead Road

BC SPCA investigates Okanagan woman with prior animal abuse convictions

BC SPCA is investigating a property near Vernon

A mother’s warning: Man follows Peachland teen to her home from Kelowna

The teen’s mother is warning others about the incident

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

Man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside B.C. elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Cold War Cabaret offers song, slam poetry and sock puppets

Devon More returns to Shuswap with Berlin Waltz, March 16

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Shuswap athletes help Team BC to podium at Canada Winter Games

Speed-skater wins bronze, ringette player contributes to playoff victory

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

HBC shuttering Home Outfitters across Canada

North America’s oldest retailer is revamping its various stores to improve profitability

Okanagan missionary helps feed Guatemalan children

Seeds to Harvest brings Gleaner’s food to those in need to relief efforts.

Man wanted for sex trafficking, confinement may be heading to B.C.

Kevin Myrthil, 26, is also accused of assault on a 19-year-old woman at an Edmonton hotel

Most Read