This article is part of the Voices of School Shooting Survivors project, a series by VICE.com intended to shine a light on victims of school shootings across the country.
On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire on students, faculty, and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed and over a dozen more injured. One of the survivors was sophomore Einav Cohen.
I was in my newspaper class when the fire alarm went off. Two friends who had left to go to the bathroom ran back in—a security guard was chasing one of them, thinking they had pulled it. We started walking outside as you would for a fire alarm, and by the time me and five others got downstairs, the teachers had stopped and started yelling to run into classrooms.
We all hid in a closet. At the beginning, we still thought it was a drill, honestly. We all agreed that, by 2:40, if they don't let us out, that's, like, illegal. So that's when some of us started freaking out a little. And that's when some news started flooding in. But the issue with that room was that we had terrible service, and not everyone was able to get texts and calls and stuff. So although people still thought it was a drill, there was news that it was a real thing. They wouldn't have the Coral Springs Police Department send out a notification not to go near the school if it wasn't real. That's when everyone started contacting their parents.
I personally was receiving texts and calls but I wasn't able to respond to the texts and then, because we had to stay so quiet—we didn't know what was going on outside—I could barely talk on the phone. My dad was the first to call me and because he served in the IDF and we talked about situations like this he told me to, you know, be careful and make yourself small, stuff like that.
When I was running into the room to hide, I thought I had heard five pop pop pop sounds, but I didn't think anything of it. Honestly, though, I remember that now but I didn't notice in the moment. So I'm afraid sometimes that I didn't even hear them and that is just my mind making something up to make me more at peace with what happened.
We'd been in there for about two and a half hours when they finally got us out.
I hadn't heard about the shooter before. I know now I've seen him many times. I saw him in the halls last year. And he worked at the local dollar store right next to our movie theater. My friends and I are teens—we are not going to buy expensive movie theater food. So we always go there. My friend was telling me like, the day before, for Valentine's Day, she was at the dollar store buying things with him as her cashier. It was sort of astonishing to know how close he got to us.
There were so many red flags that I sometimes can't even bear to think about it. There could have been help, and I believe that's something my school might have lacked before this. Now we don't—we have therapists all over. But students like this, I feel like he would have benefited so much from having our guidance counselors actually talk to them about their home life and what's going on with them. But I honestly can't blame my school—we have 3,200 students and the police must get notifications like everyday.
For this to happen in a town like Parkland—it even sounds nice. Like Park, Land. I truly think that's why we have been able to make such a big impact in society. Some of the families here do have more contacts to help make themselves heard. There are a lot of shootings that are just being overlooked because they don't have the same resources that we do and it's upsetting. But we're making changes.
Before this, I knew nothing about politics. I would take minutes for the politics club, and yet I still knew nothing. And so now that I'm going to DC myself and then going to Capitol Hill, I'm studying up and starting to learn everything I need to know to be able to make my point relevant and factual, and, you know, true.
The most I'd heard about gun control was after the Las Vegas shooting and Pulse nightclub shootings, and I honestly thought that those people were mentally insane. So I didn't focus on the gun part of it. I focused on the mental health standards, and I'm afraid that that's what some people are doing now. I was thinking in the wrong perspective—the perspective should be on how they managed to do that. And that was through the weapons.
I hope that the politicians who are still calling us children finally noticed that we're noticing what's wrong with our country while, as adults, they're second-guessing it. That as kids in high school we have to see things they will never experience. They should be hearing us out, because when you talk to a person hurt, face to face, it's much different then just like seeing them on a TV and calling them out.
I think something will actually happen after the March for Our Lives, because it's going to be too big of an issue and too big of a crowd for anybody to deny us.
Bump stocks should be banned from civilian use. There is no reason in the whole entire world for an American civilian to carry that around or hold that in his house, unless you're paranoid about the zombie apocalypse. Florida state legislators just raised the age for buying guns up to 21. I want to see that for the whole country, because it just appalls me that I won't be able to drink at 18, but I will be able to buy an AR-15 in some places. I can't get drunk but I can shoot up a school. I'm from Israel and they have extremely strict gun laws there—like, extremely strict. And so Trump, a lot of times, he points out Israel and uses them as an example. And I'm so proud of that, because in this moment in time he cannot use them because they're doing it right. They started with strict gun laws and they are staying with strict gun laws.
We're starting to learn again, like go on our normal routine. But my school will never be the same. I had a class in the freshman building, where the shooting was. I won't have that one again. I was supposed to have another class in the freshman building next year—two other classes. I was expecting to keep living life, happy and anxiety free when spring break comes. But right now it is spring break and I'm going to Washington, DC.
Schools all around the country sent us posters showing their love and support. Those are never going to be taken down. It's weird when you walk down a hallway with no posters, and all of a sudden it's a sense of relief—like it's back to normal. Everything's OK. And then you turn a corner and you see all the posters and it's like, Oh yeah that's my school. Like_, never mind._
To America's teens, I would say: Write to your state legislator. Write to your politicians. Show us support by doing that and making our voices heard, and your own.