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24.09.2018

Parkland survivors revisit tragedy — and fight to make schools safer.

It’s a month to the day since a shooter — allegedly former student Nikolas Cruz — walked onto the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and slaughtered 17 students and staff with a semi-automatic rifle. Lori Alhadeff, 43, the mother of 14-year-old Alyssa, who died in the attack, became one of...
Time: 21:57     Date: 13.03.2018
US Living News: Parkland survivors revisit tragedy — and fight to make schools safer. NY Post 24 - US News

Lori Alhadeff, 43, the mother of 14-year-old Alyssa, who died in the attack, became one of the faces of the tragedy with her heartbreaking plea on CNN: “President Trump, please do something!”

Now, Alhadeff’s doing something herself.

“I don’t want Alyssa’s death to be in vain,” Alhadeff tells The Post. “We want to make schools safe for all kids.”

The mom, who has two sons, ages 10 and 13, is currently in New York City promoting the nonprofit with the help of six girls between the ages of 14 and 18 — dubbed the Dream Team. All knew Alyssa, and most were there that tragic day.

“They are the voices of the future,” she says. “And their voices are very powerful.”

Lori Alhadeff, 43 Tamara Beckwith

The former teacher and mother of three (with sons, 10 and 13) tells The Post she moved her family to Parkland, Fla., three years ago “because it was considered the safest city.” She lovingly recalls how Alyssa loved the beach and wasn’t just a master debater at school, but that “she won every fight at home, too.”

‘For me, time has just stopped.’

From the moment a friend texted her about the situation at school, Alhadeff says she just knew. “I felt a pain that Alyssa was gone.” The next day, she saw her daughter’s body. “She was so cold and hard. I cut off some of her hair because I couldn’t let [the shooter] take everything away.”

The past month has felt like a day to her. “For me, time has just stopped,” says Lori, who has kept her daughter’s bedroom untouched.

“I’ll keep the room the same,” says the mom. “I sleep in her bed, and I feel more connected to her.”

Abby considered home schooling after the massacre, but says going back to class and being around her peers is helping her grieve. “It’s better I’m with my friends,” says the freshman, who was on the other side of the school when the shooting occurred.

Still, she’s haunted by what could have been. “Some nights I have really bad dreams of me in the building [where the shooter was],” she says. “Hopefully, it will be the last school shooting. Now, I’m proud to fight for the 17 lives [lost].”

Alyson Sheehy, 18 Tamara Beckwith

The high school senior, whose blunt poem demanding action, “Dear Mr. President,” went viral in the aftermath of the shootings, says the support of friends has gotten her through the past month. “It’s really helped talking to them because they understand how I am feeling,” she tells The Post. However, she still feels angry.

“My political involvement … has changed as a result of what happened,” says the student, who has ambitions to become a pediatrician. “Gun control is the main issue for me.”

She wants the age for obtaining a firearm to be raised to 21, supports a waiting period during background checks and wants restrictions on magazine sizes.

“I don’t approve of assault weapons and don’t see them as something you need for attention,” she says.

Aly, whose 14-year-old sister Lizzie was on the same soccer team as Alyssa, knew three of the 17 victims well and took refuge in the school’s auditorium during the nearby rampage.

“When I wrote the poem, I didn’t blame Mr. Trump for what happened. I was just asking him why he didn’t do anything,” she says, addressing some of the negative responses she received. “But most of the reaction was positive.”

Alexa Kitaygorodsky, 14 Tamara Beckwith

The ninth-grader cowered as the gunman banged on the door of her Spanish classroom before mercifully moving on.

“We just dove under the desks and there were 30 of us piled on top of each other,” recalls Alexa. “We heard shots and people screaming for help. Finally, the SWAT team came and broke down our door and glass was everywhere.

“When we were led out, we saw [victims] on the ground and it was very hard for all of us.”

‘Now, when I go into a building, I think, ‘Where would I hide if it happened again?’’

Returning to school has been difficult, but each day, it’s a little less hard.

“At first, all I thought about was going home to be with my family but now, with the increased security, therapy dogs and counselors, it is getting easier,” Alexa says.

She feels that she has changed forever mentally.

“You think it will never happen to you, and then it does. Now, when I go into a building, I think, ‘Where would I hide if it happened again?’ ”

Nicolle Martin, 14 Tamara Beckwith

The freshman, who lost several friends, says it feels like time is standing still. “It feels a lot longer than a month — every day goes by really slowly.” She says returning to school has been cathartic: “I wanted to be with my friends again and make sure my teachers were OK.” But she’s also on edge: “I don’t feel unsafe, but I’m more cautious now, especially where I don’t know people. I’m more anxious — nothing feels the same.”

She wants the world to know how resilient the community really is. “We’re really strong and we won’t stop until we feel safe and everyone feels safe.”

As for her own goals, Nicolle has a new direction. “This has made me more interested in politics — to somehow have a voice.”

Madison Micioni, 15 Tamara Beckwith

The eighth-grader attends Lyons Creek Middle School in Parkland, a 15-minute drive from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but knew Alyssa as a fellow member of her soccer team.

When she heard about the shooting, she texted friends at the neighboring school to ask if they were OK. The only person who didn’t reply was Alyssa.

Now, she doesn’t feel safe in her own classroom and is 100 percent committed to the Make Schools Safe movement.

“I want to see electronic badges to get into school with photo ID,” she says. “And the administration should look into students’ social media, as well as their personal belongings, more often under reasonable suspicion.”

In addition to honoring Alyssa with her advocacy, she hopes the soccer team will pay tribute to their late captain by playing well on the soccer field, too. “Everything we do from now on is for her,” Madison says.

Raquel Alvarado, 14 Tamara Beckwith

On the day of the shooting, Raquel, who co-captained the soccer team with Alyssa, was lucky. She just happened to leave school early that day to go home and study. “I was supposed to be on the third floor [where much of the carnage was],” says the freshman.

She concedes life will be forever altered. “We try our best to be as normal as possible, but it’s a new normal and there’s no going back.”

She has a new life direction, too. “I have a mission to make schools safer,” she says. “I never thought I’d have to have a voice and be a leader — at least at this age. We are going to be the change.”

Living

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