Students from Florida school shooting tell their stories

The rain had stopped in LA, but it was still cold and the ground was damp when juniors Mia Freeman and Hayley Licata of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School told their story to Shalhevet students in the gym this morning.

Mia and Hayley described what they experienced the day of the shooting and since, and how their day-to-day lives have changed since the shooting Feb. 14.

They said the day started off as any other normal day; they had plans after school, they celebrated Valentine’s Day.

Mia was in a hallway at school and was told to run out of the building; she ran to Starbucks and learned there of the horror that had happened.

Hayley was in class and evacuated to a path between a lake and a fence. Her phone was blowing up with text messages. A friend hiding in a closet wrote, “Help I’m scared.”

Soon 17 people — 14 students and three teachers — were dead.

The pair came to Shalhevet after officials Stephen S. Wise Temple in Bel Air connected with the Reform synagogue in Parkland, Fla., Congregation Kol Tikvah, according to Rabbi Schwarzberg, who thanked Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, senior rabbi at Stephen S. Wise, for offering to send them to Shalhevet as well as Milken Community and De Toledo Jewish high schools.

They were in town for the March for Our Lives event the next day, for which more than 1,000 Stoneman Douglas students fanned out over the U.S. to try to mobilize the nation to fight for gun control and stricter high school security. Hundreds of thousands of people marched under that banner around the world, according to media reports.

In Parkland, school has now resumed and people do show up to school, the girls said, but only some teachers teach. Everyone is struggling to move on.

“Some of our teachers are trying to teach, slowly,” said Hayley. “A lot of teachers are destroyed by what happened, so nothing much is happening except for some tests sometimes.”

They said they were speaking around the country because they never want this to happen again.

“Prayers and thoughts only do so much, we need action and policy,” Hayley said.

After the girls answered questions from Shalhevet students and faculty, the room was addressed by Mr. Nick Melvoin, vice president of the LAUSD school board. He described the district’s efforts to make schools safer and to get teenagers involved. One effort he mentioned was to lower the voting age so that more young people can vote sooner.

The assembly concluded with Shalhevet junior Eliana Cohen performing her original song about the Parkland tragedy. Called “Together as One,” the song is about how students can try and make sense of the situation.

“How do you expect me to move on, to be strong, when all this is happening?” Eliana sang. “How do you expect me to live life, to love life, without my best friends by my side?”

Afterwards, students were dismissed to davening and breakfast.